Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
It’s a beautiful stirring book, about weighty moral decisions made in the name of protecting oneself. There is a richness to the language that makes Burke’s writing unique in the crime genre. His emphasis remains on the inner conflicts rendered external, without the detailed, baroque motivations that sometimes inform crime and yet the constant nods to the poisoned histories that make bad men do bad things (and sometimes make good men do bad things) give it an eloquence and passion that makes his work so compelling.
It’s period setting, from before through to the cautious peace at the heart of the post world war 2 boom and the experiences of Weldon Hackberry from when he meets Bonnie and Clyde at the age of 16, through his experiences in the war where he meets Herschel Pine and then rescue Rosita Lowenstein from the concentration camp. They are joined in the collective race to get in on the oil business with their engineering business by Hershel’s wife, Linda Gail.
The conflict touches upon the influence of Hollywood, the antisemitic behaviours that ran through society at that time and in turn, a beautiful meditation on the need to turn the other cheek, and when not to.
It is a glorious, stirring book where it can place languid, reflective passages about the quiet pain of family alongside terse violent scenes that have five o’clock shadow on them.
I am deep into the second act of Nothing Keeps Me Anywhere where it’s tough work but necessary to capture the energy of the story whilst honing and editing the language so that it flows.