Mary Tutwiler

The Faulkner of crime writing

by Mary Tutwiler

Just when you think James Lee Burke can’t get any more famous (29 books, two Edgar Awards, three movies made from his novels — two of them starring Alec Baldwin and Tommy Lee Jones — international fan clubs, and shops and restaurants in New Iberia advertising that Burke’s protagonist, Iberia Parish detective, “Dave Robicheaux eats here”), he garners a new honor. Burke has been named Grand Master for 2009 by the Mystery Writers of America. He shares the honor with author Sue Grafton.

Since the award’s inception in 1955, when British writer Agatha Christie was named the first Grand Master, the yearly honor roll has swelled to include names like Ellery Queen, James M. Cain, Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, John le Carre, Tony Hillerman, Elmore Leonard, P.D. James and Stephen King.

Burke, 72, lives in New Iberia and Lolo, Mont., and most of his work is set in those two locals. He is currently at work on his 30th book, “Rain Gods,” a continuation of the Billy Bob Holland series, set in Texas and Montana.