Friday, May 3, 2013

Catch a falling horse

Pegasus Descending, by James Lee Burke. Simon & Schuster, 2006. The repetitiveness inherent in a long series of books, as in the case of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux stories, may not necessarily be attributed to a lack of creativity. Pegasus Descending, the fifteenth in the series set in southern Louisiana, is not unlike the others in that we have a the usual lineup of Dave, the tough but good-hearted cop, his manic hard-living sidekick Clete, and his badass lesbian sheriff boss Helen.

In some of the books Dave falls off the wagon as he struggles with his inner demons while old blues tunes run through his head; other times his wife of the moment gets tragically killed; almost always one of the incredibly unsavory bad guys gets destroyed by Dave in a barroom brawl; Helen barely restrains herself (or maybe not) from punching out someone who makes a crude comment about her sexuality; Clete consumes a record amount of beer and crashes up some thug's property in his Caddy. It doesn't matter if we've seen all this before. Variations on a theme: bring it on.

I'm not sure what the title means. It's on the t-shirt of a girl who dies. Burke's titles are always poetically resonant with the unuttered meanings that lie in the swampy, murky background of the books. This one makes us think of the glory that has fallen, and that can mean a lot of things. Often enough he seems to be writing about America and the sadness that we all carry here, and the sense that like passengers on the Titanic, we're going down.

There are always new wrinkles. In this book Clete gets a love interest, a woman much younger than himself. Good one. Bring it, James Lee.

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