Following the publication of his 11th Dave Robicheaux thriller, bestselling Burke (Bitterroot; Purple Cane Road) keeps the action in Louisiana, turning back the clock to the Civil War. Central to this brooding saga are hotheaded young idealist Willie Burke, son of a boardinghouse owner, and a beautiful slave girl named Flower Jamison. She is the illegitimate daughter of Ira Jamison, the callous owner of the infamous Angola Plantation. Flower's mother was murdered by a brutal overseer, Rufus Atkins, just after she gave birth, and Rufus has been a malevolent presence in Flower's life ever since. Secretly taught to read and write by Willie Burke, she now does laundry for the town brothel. Befriended by Abigail Dowling, a young Yankee abolitionist who is helping slaves escape the South, Flower clings to the hope that Jamison will acknowledge her as his daughter; meanwhile, Jamison has his eye on Abigail. The war gets into full swing, and Willie loses his best friend at Shiloh because of Jamison's cowardly dereliction. Wounded and left to die, Willie is saved by Abigail, who brings him home and nurses him back to health. Against her protests, he attempts to return to battle but is taken captive and-the war now over-escapes to confront racist vigilantes intent on shutting down Flower's school for ex-slaves. Burke has created a cast of strong, if somewhat stereotypical, characters; readers will warm to outspoken, irrepressible Willie as much as they deplore the evil Atkins. Although at times a bit forced, this moving morality play shows a different dimension of this gifted writer. Agent, Phillip Spitzer. (Nov.) Forecast: Fans of John Jakes will particularly enjoy this rare historical offering from Burke. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Burke's latest novel, from an earlier New Iberia, LA, tells the story of three friends, two based on his own ancestors Robert Perry and Willie Burke. Together with Jim Stubbefield, these boyhood friends join the Confederate Army. The author captures the horrors of the Civil War and its aftermath, describing the effects on those left behind; the corruption of governments thrown into place after the war; the infamous jayhawkers who ravaged both sides of the Mason-Dixon line; and the notorious Knights of the White Camillia-the foundation of the Ku Klux Klan. Burke proves his writing skill as he weaves the lives of people from all levels of society into this work. He again shows his craftsmanship with language and re-creates a very dark time in America's past. Will Patton's narration is flawless; highly recommended for all libraries.-Theresa Connors, Arkansas Tech Univ., Russellville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Think the rumbustious Dave Robicheaux novels (Jolie Blon’s Bounce, p. 437, etc.) have so little mystery that they could dispense with the mystery formula altogether? Here’s a test case: a Civil War/Reconstruction yarn that’s also a fictionalized family history. Not that Burke deprives himself of murder, from the opening execution of runaway slave Sarie Jamison by Rufus Atkins, the brutal taskmaster of Angola plantation owner Ira Jamison. On the eve of Fort Sumter 24 years later, Sarie’s (and Ira’s) daughter Flower is a laundress in New Iberia, Burke’s Yoknapatawpha. She’s been befriended by abolitionist Abigail Dowling and secretly taught to read by Willie Burke, who proves that anti-authoritarian bias of his heroes can’t be blamed on the War Between the States, since he seems to have been born mouthing off. Beginning his military career by insulting Captain Atkins, he marches off to war with his friend Jim Stubbefield. A third musketeer, pro-slavery law student Robert Perry, vanishes into the shadows while Willie and Jim face their baptism at Shiloh--an experience so harrowing that Willie moves up to insulting General Nathan Bedford Forrest before he returns home to switch from battling the Yankees to battling the likes of the White League and the Knights of the White Camellia. By then, the leading characters have long settled into roles familiar from Burke’s contemporary fiction: the idealist who can’t help picking fights (Willie), his familiar (Jim), the all-powerful Father of Darkness (Jamison), his untouchable enforcer (Atkins), the heroine whose soul provides a battleground for good and evil (Abigail), the victim whose body ditto (Flower), and their seething compatriots (everybodyelse). Shorn of any mystery but the mystery of evil, this roiling, deeply old-fashioned tale is less successful as a stand-alone revisiting of The Clansman and Gone With the Wind than as a kind of all-purpose backstory--or, more accurately, a prototype--of the Robicheaux saga.
From the Publisher
People [A] Civil War blockbuster....Extraordinary.
The Washington Post Book World Violent, lyrical, and engrossing....The man has a touch of the poet in him.
Read an Excerpt
In a startling departure, James Lee Burke has written an epic story of love, hate and survival set against the tumultuous background of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
At the center of the tale are James lee Burke's own ancestrors, Robert Perry, who comes from the slave-owning family of wealth and privliege, and Willy Burke, born of Irish immigrants, a poor boy who is as irreverent as he is brave and decent. Despite personal and political conflicts, both men join the Confederate Army, determined not to back down in their commitment to their moral belirfs, to their friends, and to the abolitionist woman with whom both are infatuated.
Willie's friend, Flower Jamison, a beautiful young black slave is owned by -- and fathered by, although he will not admit it -- Ira Jamison. Owner of Angola Plantation, Ira Jamison returns after the war and transforms his plantation into a penal colony which houses prisoners he rents out as laborers to replace the emancipated slaves.
Against all local laws and customs, Willie teaches Flower how to read and write. She receives the help and protection of Abigail Dowling, the Massachusetts abolitionist who has attracted both Willie and Robert Perry's attention. These love affairs are fraught with danger and compromised by the great and grim events of the Civil War and its aftermatch.
With unforgettable battle scenes at Shiloh and in the Shenandoah Valley, White Doves at Morning is an epic masterpiece of historical fiction.