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James Lee Burke nails America’s immigration backlash

November 22, 2011

I’m reading the new James Lee Burke book, Feast Day of Fools, prior to reviewing it and, hopefully, interviewing the great man.

Featuring disgraced lawyer turned sheriff, Hackberry Holland, it is set in the same small town on the Mexico US border in Texas as 2009’s Rain Gods. The spectre of illegal immigration, and the nefarious trade in it, continues to be the chief driver of the plot. Burke is concerned with the real victims of this trade: the poor unfortunates who become the pawns in the game of the people smugglers as well as the wider political forces that demonise them.

I’m not that far in, but one character nails the American debate on immigration with this great speech.

We live in a country that has created a huge serving class of illegals who work for low pay at jobs Americans won’t do. We get along very well with these people during prosperous times. But as soon as the economy goes down, they are treated like dirt.

I think this may be the signature explanation of the Hackberry books.

By the way, if anyone is going to film the breakneck chase across Texas that was Rain Gods, I think only Terrence Malick has the cinematic abilities to capture the essence of the landscape that Burke evokes in the book. I’m not sure he’d be up for it though.

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