In the 2007 bestseller Tin Roof Blowdown, James Lee Burke's character Detective Dave Robicheaux waded through the ruins of post-Katrina Louisiana. Burke wrote, "The irrevocable fact remains that we saw an American city turned into Baghdad." On Jan. 24, when the New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-28, he was at home in New Iberia, La. "It was wonderful to see the fans hollering with so much happiness inside the place that had been the scene of so much suffering. All people of goodwill want to see good things happen for New Orleans,'' said Burke, 73. Coming in May is the paperback edition of Rain Gods, about Sheriff Hack Holland.
What is on your nightstand?
I'm reading a collection of stories by Victoria Patterson. She's a new writer from California.
Why did she pique your interest?
Her peculiarity of talent, and she can tell a good story. Being a writer is a God-given talent. It comes from a source outside of oneself, and every artist knows that. Those who deny it, who are grandiose and indicate they acquire ability and think it is something manufactured within themselves, will lose themselves. Faulkner said at his death, "Had I not written the books, another hand would have written them for me."
What writers influenced you at the start of your career?
Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit poet.
You have three Southern writers on that list. Do you consider yourself in that tradition?
I'm a writer who happens to be living in the South. Southern writers, people who write of the South, have a special kind of gift presented to them. It's the culture. Put it this way, the past is visible in the South.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer