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This book is probably Burke's first novel, first published in 1965. It consists of three stories loosely interwoven in Louisiana's seamier sides, including the fight game, blues singers, and prison camps. Early Burke sounds a lot like later Burke so far a tone, mood, and dialog. It's very good writing. But caution: these are not an uplifting stories. The prison camp in particular conjures up images of Cool Hand Luke's camp.
Except for the fact that everyone talks like some bland character from a TV family sitcom.
Not the dialog, Zeisler's narration. Escaped prisoners being chased through the marsh: they all sound the same, like a couple of frat boys talking about cars. Passionate lovemaking? Same thing. The woman even sounds the same, not like any woman I know and certainly not passionate. There's not even an attempt made to make some poor Louisiana coon-ass sound authentic. They're all the same, speaking with near monotone delivery. Everyone sounds like Zeisler ordering a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Well, all but one. For some reason Zeisler has to take a shot at a British accent. It's terrible, and the story doesn't even need a Brit. Zeisler could have just gone on with his coffee-ordering delivery and no one would be the wiser.
The only reason I can see that Simon and Schuster Audio picked Zeisler for this read is that he does a pretty good job singing some of the blues lyrics sprinkled throughout the book, or at least he has the guts to try. They should have used him for just the lyrics and got someone else, almost anyone else, to do the narration.
If I had it to do over again I would get the print version and try to imagine Will Patton or Mark Hammer narrating it.
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Half of Paradise, James Lee Burke
So you think you’ve had a rough life? You’re upset with what fate has handed you? Or maybe you’re feeling guilty about how good your life is and can’t forgive yourself for being so happy?
Then this book is for you. “Half of Paradise” is a very well written and extremely dark anthology of tragic people making tragic decisions on a tragic course to destruction.
Mr. Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series is one of my favorites, a great writer telling great stories. Maybe it was just my mood (or perhaps my story) but this book, “Half of Paradise” depressed the hell out of me.
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