Arts & Life

The Burke Family Business Is a Mystery

Father, Daughter Writers Match Professions, Characters

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James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke. Robert Clark hide caption

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Alafair Burke

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Texas Ranger-turned-attorney Billy Bob Holland is a man haunted by his past and driven by a fierce belief in justice.

Portland-based Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid is a young, irreverent heroine with a tough-as-nails composure.

Although the two characters have little in common besides a penchant for investigating cases of corruption and murder, there is a connection. Billy Bob is the creation of novelist James Lee Burke. Burke's daughter, Alafair Burke, is the writer behind Samantha Kincaid.

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The highly-acclaimed elder Burke has been writing books since the 1960s and is probably best known for his gritty Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux. In Robicheaux, Burke created one of crime fiction's enduring characters, with many parallels to his own life: a Bayou background, past alcoholism — even a daughter named Alafair. Burke's latest novel, In the Moon of Red Ponies, is the fourth in the "Billy Bob Holland" series.

Missing Justice is the follow-up to Alafair Burke's well-received debut novel. With a father as a novelist, Burke says that she had been interested in writing since childhood. "As a kid... I would sneak into his office when he wasn't around and get on his manual typewriter and write mysteries before he was writing [them]." A former deputy district attorney herself, Burke now teaches at Hofstra Law School and draws on her previous experiences for her books.

In the last of a three-part series on crime writers, NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks to James Lee and Alafair Burke about their latest novels.



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