James Lee Burke | House of the Rising Sun

A contemporary Arthurian quest, replete with Holy Grail.

Books & Writers


HouseoftheRisingSun-CMYK Laconic Texas Ranger Hackberry Holland blazes through Mexico and south Texas in Missoula author James Lee Burke’s latest tale of corruption and retribution – a contemporary Arthurian quest, replete with Holy Grail.

In this version, however, instead of searching for the Grail, Holland inadvertently ends up with the mythic cup of Christ after a violent encounter with Mexican soldiers. A ruthless Austrian gun dealer wants it back, at any price.

It’s also the story of a father and son, separated by circumstance, choice, and the wiles of Holland’s estranged wife Maggie Bassett, a laudanum addict and one-time lover of the Sundance Kid and other nefarious conquests.

She’s not the only formidable woman in Burke’s story: union organizer Ruby Dansen (the mother of Holland’s only child, Ishmael) and brothel madam Beatrice DeMolay each bring conscience and stamina to Holland’s knightly efforts to find his son, and keep the mythic Holy Grail out of the hands of its evil pursuer.

James Lee Burke
James Lee BurkePhoto © Frank Veronsky for Simon & Schuster

 As usual, Burke’s story mingles mayhem and poetry: “The sky was sprinkled with stars and streaked by meteorites that turned into flecks of ice, the thunderheads in the west pulsing with tiny forks of electricity … Why couldn’t he be in alignment with himself the way the planets and stars were, all of them hung like snowy ornaments on a tree by Druid priests?” Because heroes in Burke’s 36 books are never “in alignment.” They are deeply flawed, violent men, who continue to make us turn pages with startled pleasure.

 “Burke’s prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder,” writes Entertainment Weekly.

– Kristi Niemeyer

James Lee Burke, a rare winner of two Edgar Awards, and named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, is the bestselling author of more than thirty novels and two collections of short stories. He lives in Missoula, Montana. (jamesleeburke.com)