Reaching for the stars /
he found a half moon waiting /
at the bare limb’s edge.
In the heat of a Texas summer, Aaron Holland Broussard comes of age. It’s 1952: the two world wars still cast their long shadows and, far away, the Americans are fighting the Russians in a proxy war around the 38th Parallel.
Aaron’s a good guy, an only child in a dysfunctional household – father a drinker, probably suffering what today we’d call post-traumatic stress disorder having gone over the top in the Great War, mother who’s been through the mill with all the grim treatments thrown at depressives back then. Aaron looks after his animals and plays his old Gibson, trying all the while to beat back the fear and anxiety with which he awakens daily. On a Galveston beach following the swim of his young life, he spots Valerie Epstein, beautiful and (as it turns out) brainy, arguing with handsome low-life Grady Harrelson in his pink Cadillac convertible, and falls “joyously, sick-down-in-your-soul in love”. In the blink of an eye as Valerie throws back Grady’s graduation ring and walks away, “like Helen of Troy turning her back on Attica”, Aaron has made himself a whole legion of enemies all of whom he is determined to vanquish in defence of his beloved.
Saber, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, is Aaron’s best friend from school, a fearless prankster for whom nothing is too much trouble. Soon both boys are embroiled not just with teenage hoodlums but with mobsters, drug dealers and corrupt cops, guns-for-hire who’ll stop at nothing to make their point.
The Jealous Kind concludes the trilogy that began with Wayfaring Stranger and House of the Rising Sun, a story which draws on Burke’s maternal family lore. The author himself was born in Houston and spent his childhood on the Gulf Coast. His daddy worked on “the pipeline” in the days when, if you had a job, you were as they say “in tall cotton” and the American dream was opportunity not fantasy. Burke was born in 1936, so in ’52 he’d have been Aaron’s age. Like the young James, who wrote his first novel in an effort to pay off his college bills, Aaron too is a would-be writer, and like him plays the guitar.
Souped-up old cars, drive-ins and juke joints are the backdrop to a story that’s set in the still-segregated south, blacks and Mexicans outcasts in a society of Mob rule, with torture and beatings, arson and shootings – rough justice casually meted out by those whose machismo has been trampled. His experience in the trenches have made Aaron’s father, an amateur historian, fiercely anti-violence and he expects his only son to be a good guy. The two attend mass together and, like his dad, Aaron holds firm to the Catholic rite and the sanctity of the confessional.
Like all Burke’s books – including the score of novels featuring New Orleans cop Dave Robicheaux – The Jealous Kind is the story of a struggle between good and evil, the rich and the righteous. Fiction, Burke believes, must have a moral line or risk being inconsequential. His characters always indicate that violence is a defeat and if it is committed it is in defence of another. Like so many of Burke’s characters, including Robicheaux, Aaron is essentially the Good Knight, a young man on a pilgrimage toward redemption.
Michael Connelly has called James Lee Burke “the heavy-weight champ” while for Stephen King he’s a “gorgeous prose stylist”. He is both of those things and more, his writing richly expressive and his ear pitch-perfect for the jive talk of the punks and pachucos and the white trash who people his novels. Passing references speak volumes: Grady’s father is reading “a collection of essays by Harry H Laughlin”, America’s leading eugenicist, while Aaron reflects: “The great gift of the government to our generation was the WPA program known simply as the bookmobile. Those of us who loved books didn’t learn to love them at school; we learned a love of literature by reading the adventures of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and Richard Halliburton.”
That’s Burke speaking for sure, the old-fashioned left-wing Catholic who believes that Jesus was a radical egalitarian. Donald Trump will be grist to his literary mill.
Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary
Paula Munier (Talcott Notch Literary)
Notes: “High concept only.”
How to submit: E-query editorial [at] talcottnotch.net with “Query for Paula: [title]” in the subject line.
From their query page http://www.talcottnotch.net/index.php/queries:
What should an ideal query include?
Your fiction query should include your genre, such as mystery, science fiction or mainstream, whether the project is for adults or for children, and the length of the complete project in number of words (for example, 86,000 words), not pages. The query should give us a brief overview of the book’s plot and main characters, but does not have to include a complete synopsis. For first-time authors, we do prefer that the project be complete before you query us.
Your nonfiction query should include your subject area, such as history, biography or business, the main concept of the book, the word count you project the book will be when completed, and your credentials to write the work. Unlike many first novels, many first nonfiction projects do not require that the book be finished before it can be marketed successfully, and we’ll be looking to see that the book proposal and a sample chapter is available here instead. Let us know how long you feel you will take to complete the book. Be realistic with your estimations. It doesn’t matter if you give us an estimate that sounds good if you cannot deliver the book on that date.
Things that Make a Query Stand Out
Hook us in your first paragraph. What’s the most outstanding aspect of your book? Is it your characters’ conflict? Is it your protagonist’s background? Is it the completely surprising revelation you uncovered in your research for your new health book? Don’t assume that you have your entire query to get to your point. If you don’t hook your reader with your opening, your query could get pushed aside.
Show you know your market. Nothing says you haven’t given this a thought better than saying your book is for readers 8-80. But if you say your book is YA and would appeal to readers of two specific writers (particularly if they simply aren’t the two best-known at the moment!) and can even list reasons why, then you’re getting warm.
Don’t forget your ten pages. We ask specifically for the first ten pages of the manuscript and without those, we have to make a decision based solely on the query. Perhaps your query letter isn’t your strongest point, and your voice in your manuscript is amazing? Don’t lose out on the chance to convince us! Just be sure to paste those into the body of the email rather than add them as an attachment.
Things to Avoid In a Query
Don’t stress the fact you are a new writer if you are. Stress your qualifications to write the project and your ability to promote it successfully.
Don’t suggest a book length that is simply not marketable. Research the publishers’ websites, author guidelines and new releases to know what they’re publishing right now.
Don’t quote nice things other people told you when they were turning down your query or book. It might seem like a good idea to tell us that Fabulous Editor X or Amazing Agent Y told you your writing was compelling or your characters were complex, but the next person reading this is going to wonder why that editor or agent didn’t sign the book. In fact, by giving us the quotes from rejections, you’re making the book less appealing, not more.
Avoid insisting the book is going to be a bestseller, even if you feel certain it will be! Let your story and your writing speak for itself.
Two writers who didn’t like each other met in a bar, as such writers often do. Each claimed it was his favorite bar and each claimed he had found it first. After several months of glowering at each other and bad mouthing each other, they agree to settle the matter with a duel of puns.
Since the short writer won the sixth round (by reason of plagiarism by the tall writer), the tall writer was allowed to go first for round six. A set of cards was placed on the table between them, face down. On each card was a subject. The short writer flipped the card over and the subject was math.
Props were allowed, and for each turn, each writer could make one phone call.
For round seven, the rules of round six were kept in place. For round six and five, the rules had been amended. Each writer had to say his pun and the audience would get to pick which one they preferred. The bartender, a waiter, and a waitress would be the judges as to who got the loudest groan.
After thinking a moment, the tall writer said, “All lives mater.”
This immediately drew a moan from the crowd, and not a kind one.
“Until you multiply yourselves times the speed of light squared. Then you be energy.”
The groans turned to some chuckles and a few laughs.
The short writer waited until things were quiet, then he said, “Two knights walked into a room where there was a round table. The young knight turns to the older one and asks, ‘Who built this fine table?’ The older knight replies, ‘Sir Cumference.’”
The crowd groaned, twice, and somebody laughed.
Round seven was about to go to the short writer. The short writer now had 3 wins, 2 losses, and 2 ties.” The tall writer also had 2 wins, 3 losses, and 2 ties.
Undisputed Queen of Crime Agatha Christie died on this day in 1976. Crime fiction is a genre that has traditionally been dominated by men—but on the other hand, Christie is the best-selling author of all time, so that should tell you something. In honor of her life (and her prolific publishing career) I’ve picked out a few great crime novels written by women from each of the last ten decades. Now, of course, there are more than three crime novels from each decade that you should read (and probably more than three novels in every genre that you should read), but one has to stop somewhere, so add your own recommendations with abandon. NB: This is not a definitive list by any means; genre is necessarily a bit fluid here, privilege has gone to important, groundbreaking or otherwise historically notable works where I’ve noted them, but taste has, as ever, played a factor.
More at the link listed above.