Morning for Flamingos. A

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Morning for Flamingos. A Powered By Docstoc
					“A Morning for Flamingos” (1990) was apparently the fourth novel published by
American author James Lee Burke in his mighty New York Times bestselling detective
Dave Robicheaux series. Like the earlier books of the series, and most of the series’
works to follow, the book, a Southern noir, police procedural/mystery, is set in and
around New Orleans, Louisiana, more or less home country for Burke, who was born in
Houston, Texas, in 1936, and grew up on the Texas-Louisiana gulf coast.

 Money problems have brought Robicheaux back to working as a detective in the
Sheriff’s Office of New Iberia, Louisiana, a smaller quieter town near New Orleans. He
still lives in the house in which he was born, and owns and operates his boat rental and
bait business, assisted by Batist, the black man whom we have met many times before
and will again. The detective’s second wife Annie was murdered a year ago by hit men
looking for Robicheaux. We meet again his adopted daughter Alafair, and the three-
legged raccoon, Tripod, her pet.

Robicheaux and another detective are taking two convicted felons to Angola, the
notorious Louisiana state jail. One, the black, Creole Tee Beau Latiolais, is under
sentence of death for the murder of redbone Hipolyte Broussard, pimp and drug dealer.
Tee Beau’s Grandmama, Tante Lemon, is not shy about expressing to Robicheaux her
conviction that the young man is innocent of the crime. The other felon, Jimmie Lee
Boggs, is Burke’s more or less usual funny-looking, white, psychotic, homicidal hit man.
On the trip, Boggs makes a break for it, killing two men, seriously injuring Robicheaux,
and incidentally freeing Tee Beau. Needless to say, the detective is intent on finding
Boggs again. But his continuing financial problems cause him to accept a proposition
from an old acquaintance, the fed Minos Dautrieve: that he go undercover for DEA to try
to put a dent in New Orleans’ thriving drug trade. As Robicheaux continues to look into
Tee Beau’s case, the detective will also meet Dorothea, the young man’s girlfriend, and
Gros Mama Goula, black gris-gris woman and brothel keeper, who just might know a
thing or two about the death of the redbone (mixed black, white and Indian in the local
parlance). The detective’s return to New Orleans also results in his hearing from Bootsie
Giacano, an old girlfriend of his, now twice widowed, who had married into New
Orleans’ premier mobster family. She goes back in his life to the summer of 1957, when
Jimmie Clanton’s “Just a Dream” was the most popular song on the jukebox.

Of course, this being a book by Burke, New Orleans wise guys soon start coming out of
the woodwork for reasons of their own: we have here Anthony Cardo, AKA Tony C or
Tony the Cutter, and his assorted employees, Lionel Comeaux, Uncle Ray Fontenot,
Kim Dollinger, and others. And, to be sure, Clete Purcel, Robicheaux’s former partner
on the New Orleans Police Department, an overweight, heavy-drinking, brawling,
heavily-scarred survivor of the city’s tough Irish Channel neighborhood, as Burke’s
gangsters always are, is around to help the detective. Robicheaux is of Cajun ancestry,
and is still reliving the nightmare of his service in Vietnam, as, in fact, is the mobster
Tony C. The detective has a drinking problem, and a tendency to violence that is
exaggerated by his friend and alter-ego Purcel.
Well, as a rule, I don’t care for “undercover” plots, and the plot here is a little thin – for
Burke – although it hums along and introduces quite a few characters. Several of the
characters are grotesque, indeed, a sure attribute of Southern fiction. Still, “A Morning”
is by no means my favorite in the mystery series. But Burke continues to write with
noticeable energy, passion and power. More than anything else, seems to me, in Burke’s
work, we’ll enjoy some of the most beautiful, knowledgeable writing ever committed to
paper about the flora, fauna, geography, and human occupants of New Orleans and the
Gulf Coast, now so much in the news. Burke attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute;
later received B. A. and M. A. degrees from the University of Missouri in 1958 and 1960
respectively. Over the years he worked as a landman for Sinclair Oil Company, a
pipeliner, land surveyor, newspaper reporter, college English professor, social worker on
Skid Row in Los Angeles, clerk for the Louisiana Employment Service, and instructor in
the U. S. Job Corps. His work has twice been awarded an Edgar for Best Crime Novel of
the Year. At least eight of his novels, including the recent JOLIE BLON’S BOUNCE,
and PURPLE CANE ROAD have been New York Times bestsellers. Fourth book in the
series: still pretty strong stuff. Worth reading.

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