James Lee Burke

For other people named James Burke, see James Burke (disambiguation).
James Lee Burke
Born James Lee Burke
(1936-12-05) December 5, 1936
Houston, Texas, United States
Occupation Writer, novelist
Nationality American
Spouse Pearl (Pai Chu) Burke
Children Alafair Burke, Pamela Burke, Andree Burke, James Burke, Jr.

James Lee Burke (born December 5, 1936) is an American author of mysteries, best known for his Dave Robicheaux series. He has won an Edgar Award for Black Cherry Blues (1990) and an Edgar Award for Cimarron Rose (1998), and has also been presented with the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. The Robicheaux character has been portrayed twice on screen, first by Alec Baldwin (Heaven's Prisoners) and then Tommy Lee Jones (In the Electric Mist). Burke's 1982 novel, Two for Texas, was made into a 1998 TV Movie by the same name. Burke has also written five (5) miscellaneous crime novels (including Two for Texas), two short story collections, four books starring protagonist Texas attorney Billy Bob Holland, and four (4) books starring Billy Bob's cousin Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland and two (2) books starring Weldon Avery Holland, grandson of Texas legendary lawman Hackberry Holland.


Burke was born in Houston, Texas, but spent most of his childhood on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and University of Missouri, receiving a BA and MA in English Literature from the latter.[1] He worked in a variety of jobs over the years while books he had written were rejected, and books he had published went out of print. At various times he worked as a truck driver for the U.S. Forest Service, a newspaper reporter, a social worker in on Skid Row in Los Angeles, a land surveyor in Colorado, worked in the Louisiana State unemployment system, and worked in the Job Corps in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Eastern Kentucky.[2][1] He taught at five different colleges before getting on the tenure track teaching creative writing at Wichita State University during the 1980s. The success of his novel Black Cherry Blues allowed him to write full-time and to purchase a house in Montana.

Personal life

Burke owns a home with his wife, Pearl (née Pai Chu[3]), in Lolo, Montana. Their daughter Alafair Burke, is also a prominent crime writer, and daughter Pamala Burke manages Jim's site www.jamesleeburke.com, his event scheduling, and social media. They also have four grandchildren. Burke is the cousin of short story writer Andre Dubus II.


Dave Robicheaux

  1. The Neon Rain (1987)
  2. Heaven's Prisoners (1988) (and movie)
  3. Black Cherry Blues (1989)
  4. A Morning for Flamingos (1990)
  5. A Stained White Radiance (1992)
  6. In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (1993) (and movie)
  7. Dixie City Jam (1994)
  8. Burning Angel (1995)
  9. Cadillac Jukebox (1996)
  10. Sunset Limited (1998)
  11. Purple Cane Road (2000)
  12. Jolie Blon's Bounce (2002)
  13. Last Car to Elysian Fields (2003)
  14. Crusader's Cross (2005)
  15. Pegasus Descending (2006)
  16. The Tin Roof Blowdown (2007)
  17. Swan Peak (2008)
  18. The Glass Rainbow (2010)
  19. Creole Belle (2012)
  20. Light of the World (2013)

Billy Bob Holland

  1. Cimarron Rose (1997)
  2. Heartwood (1999)
  3. Bitterroot (2001)
  4. In the Moon of Red Ponies (2004)

Hackberry Holland

  1. Lay Down My Sword and Shield (1971)
  2. Rain Gods (2009)
  3. Feast Day of Fools (2011)
  4. House of the Rising Sun (2015)

Weldon Holland

  1. Wayfaring Stranger (2014)
  2. House of the Rising Sun (2015)


  1. Half of Paradise (1965)
  2. To The Bright and Shining Sun (1970)
  3. Two for Texas (1982)
  4. The Lost Get-Back Boogie (1986)
  5. White Doves at Morning (2002)

Short Story Collections

  1. The Convict (1985)
  2. Jesus Out to Sea (2007)


In 1988, James Lee Burke was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. Burke received the 2002 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the "literary intellectual heritage of Louisiana." The award was presented to him by then Lt. Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, on November 2, 2002, at a ceremony held at the inaugural Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, LA. James Lee Burke has been recognized three times by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). The MWA awarded its Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year in 1990 for Black Cherry Blues. In 1998 the MWA again awarded its "Edgar" for Best Novel of the year for Burke's Cimarron Rose. Then in 2009 James Lee Burke received the MWA's Grand Master Award. It is rare for a mystery novelist to win both an "Edgar" [Edgar Allan Poe] Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Stephen King said in a 2015 interview that he reads Burke because he is a "gorgeous prose stylist".[4]


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