"Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work." -- James Lee Burke
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 Cimarron Rose (1998). 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 has also written seven miscellaneous crime novels, two short story anthologies and four books starring a new protagonist, Texas attorney Billy Bob Holland.
"I used to save all my rejection slips because I told myself, one day I'm going to autograph these and auction them. And then I lost the box.""I wouldn't write anything autobiographical. If you've lived a life like Laurence of Arabia, it might be a consideration, but otherwise it's a little bit vain, it seems to me.""If you put somebody on a crack pipe and give them a 9 mm Baretta, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what's going to happen next.""Never read bad stuff if you're an artist; it will impair your own game.""That's one of the great advantages of age. You can say, I don't want to, I don't care, you can throw temper tantrums, and nobody minds.""The only thing an artist has to remember is to never lose faith in his vision.""The story of Ulysses and Agamemnon and Menelaus, of Jesus, of the Good Knight of Chaucer, lives in every one of us.""There's nothing like rejection to make you do an inventory of yourself.""Today, there are more opportunities for writers in terms of access to larger success, but it's more difficult to publish a literary novel in the lower ranges. In other words, you almost have to hit a home run. You can hit a triple, maybe, but nobody's interested in a single.""Using a first-person narrator is simply a matter of hearing the voice inside yourself.""We decry violence all the time in this country, but look at our history. We were born in a violent revolution, and we've been in wars ever since. We're not a pacific people.""When you find the right people, you never let go. The people who count are the ones who are your friends in lean times. You have all the friends you want when things are going well.""You do it a day at a time. You write as well as you can, you put it in the mail, you leave it under submission, you never leave it at home."
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 from the latter. He has worked in a wide variety of industries over the years, including oil, journalism and social care. He taught for the creative writing program at Wichita State University during the '80s, shortly before resettling in Montana.
Burke owns homes with his wife, Pearl, in Lolo, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana. They have four children, including their daughter Alafair Burke, who is also a prominent crime writer. They also have four grandchildren.
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 innaugural 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.