In the beginning...

...there were The Flyaways, a family who traveled in their miraculous flying machine having daring adventures with Goldilocks and Cinderella. The first in the 3-book series by Alice Dale Hardy was published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1925 and copies are almost extinct. Few people remember Ma and Pa, Tommy and Susie Flyaway now.

I became acquainted with them on my grandfather's lap, my dear Grandpa Baker who read and read and read to me every evening for as many years as I can remember. I would hold my breath as each chapter ending neared, hoping he would not stop. I would keep begging for "just one more" chapter until his voice got so hoarse I would have to run to his room to get his throat lozenges.

Over the years we covered all of Uncle Wiggly and Honey Bunch, the Bobbsey Twins, the Five Little Peppers, the Wind in the Willow series, some of them more than once. He read to me until long after I could read everything for myself, until I was into Beverly Gray, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I was safe and happy snuggled up on the couch with him and that feeling has never left me. I still read and read and read, and it still makes me feel safe and happy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

James Lee Burke

As I mentioned before, I read Black Cherry Blues many years ago and sent Burke a letter, comparing him to my old favorite detective writer, the late John MacDonald, creator of the Travis McGee series. Burke's hero Dave Robicheaux was a perfect counterpart to the macho, but sensitive McGee, who lived aboard a houseboat in Florida called the Busted Flush. Robicheaux is a sheriff in the bayou country of New Orleans, an on-the-wagon alcoholic who is always one breath away from the bottle. His companions and the criminals they pursue are as earthy and colorful as any I've ever read about, and Burke's prose as rich and descriptive and evocative as a poet. I've read everything Burke has written, including new adventures with new protagonists, but Robicheaux remains my favorite.

Much to surprise, Burke responded to my fan letter with a personal note - this was at least 15 years ago, before they started making his books into movies. I had a chance to meet him at a mystery book store in NYC and found him to be a warm and personable guy, who continues to send me Christmas cards. His real daughter Alafair, who is a character in the Dave Robicheaux series, is now a mystery writer in her own right.

His newest book is Rain Gods, which I just finished, a Sheriff Hack Holland novel set in Texas. Burke has received his share of publicity, including an article in People magazine around the time that Heaven's Prisoners was made into a film. He looks like a craggy cowboy himself and I'd be fantasizing about him if he weren't very happily married. Rats.

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