From award-winning New York Times best-selling author James Lee Burke - an atmospheric, powerful coming-of-age story set in 1950s Texas, as the specter of the Korean War looms.
On its surface, life in Houston in the 1950s is as you'd expect: stoic fathers, restless teens, drive-in movies, and souped-up Cadillacs. But underneath lies a world shifting under high school junior Aaron Broussard's feet. There's a class war between the "haves" and the "have-nots" as well as a real war, Korea, happening on the other side of the world. It is against this backdrop that Aaron comes of age, trying to understand how first loves, friendship, violence, and power can alter what "traditional America" means for the people trying to find their way in a changing world.
When Aaron spots the beautiful Valerie Epstein fighting with her boyfriend, Grady Harrelson, at a drive-in, he steps in. Aaron and Valerie begin dating, but Grady presents a looming problem - as does Grady's father, who has troubling criminal connections. In the middle of it all is Aaron, who seemingly takes care of one threat only to see multiple ones manifest in its stead.
In The Jealous Kind, "modern master" (Publishers Weekly) James Lee Burke creates a singular bittersweet experience that mirrors a larger world on the precipice of great change. As Aaron undergoes his harrowing evolution from boy to man, we can't help but recall the inspirational power of first love and how far we would go to protect the world we know.
©2016 James Lee Burke (P)2016 Simon & Schuster
"James Lee Burke's exquisite story about a teenager caught up in a 1950s class war, narrated by Will Patton, grabs listeners from the get-go. His portrayal of the novel's young narrator, Aaron Holland Broussard, is fully believable.... On a deeper level, Patton's compassion resonates as the boy struggles to prevent his best friend from self-destructing...this is a stellar production, not to be missed." (AudioFile)
I'm a retired professor of geography. A few years ago my health deteriorated and I had to give up reading. Audiobooks are my life-saver.
The Jealous Kind, a novel of over eleven hours, could just as easily have been a short story: the narrative takes place among divergent small groups of teenagers and adults over a few summer weeks in early 1950s Houston. Instead, James Lee Burke has graced us with this beautifully constructed and worded full-length work. Because Burke is one of my two favorite authors (the other, not coincidentally, being Larry McMurtry), I have to admit to bias, but all I can say is that this is not only Burke at his best, but novel-writing itself at its best. I frequently found myself repeating sentences and passages just to take pleasure in the wonderful prose.
On top of this, we also experience Will Paton at his best. He doesn't just read the characters' words, or even just acts them -- he _becomes_ the characters. After listening to many of his previous narrations, I thought he couldn't get any better, but he has, and sets the bar at a new high.
For us fans that have read every Burke/Patton collaboration, ratings don't hold all the weight. We know by this point in this prolific author's career that at his worst, Burke might obfuscate his story with extravagant prose and his poetic sensibility, sending the reader sailing blissfully into the atmosphere of the novel while Patton drawls in your ear that whisper-y voice like a meditation. At his best, he's immortal; Patton, hypnotic, even sensual. Burke makes me forget I wasn't born on the bayou in the 40's, and wish that I had a porte-cochère with a PeeCan tree next to the sleeping porch. I love stepping into wherever he's taking me -- as long as it's à trois -- me, Burke, and Patton.
From Burke's pen, family honor is almost genetic and time usually has an anachronistic hiccup -- the morals and traditions of one generation trying to keep their footing under the weight of a burgeoning next generation. The Jealous Kind seems to have one foot in American Graffiti, and the other in The Godfather. Set in 1952 Houston, the country was trying to re-define itself. Men had returned from wars and were raising children after missing much of their own youth. Subcultures blossomed in place of the collective war-effort patriotism, and the Mafia had spread from the east coast to the western states where they met some resistance from the Mexican crime gangs that already had a strong foothold on drug trafficking into the U.S. This backdrop is a far cry from Arnold's Drive-In for this tale of boyhood to manhood. High schoolers Richie, Potsie, and Ralph-Malph didn't worry much about the Mafia and Fonzi didn't carry guns or switchblades (unless you count his flip-out comb, which could be bought in any border town for a buck).
While any of Burke's novels can be picked up and read independent from each other, several are written in groupings, ie the Robicheaux novels, the Holland (Hackberry) novels. The Jealous Kind is loosely tied to the Holland/Hackberry novels, the 17 yr. old protagonist (Aaron Holland Broussard) is the grandson of Hackberry Holland (city marshal Texas Ranger that captured the infamous John Wesley Hardin). All of Burke's novels tend to fall into white hats vs. black hats with no shortage of violence in the defense of good triumphs over the evil doers. This is probably one of the darkest of Burke's novels, and much of that is due simply to the serious adult issues being carried by a 17 yr. old young man. Always aware of his proud and noble lineage, Aaron has a knack for sticking his nose in where he thinks there is unfair play. When he comes to the aid of beautiful damsel Valerie in distress at the drive-in, he tangles with the son of a mob boss and unleashes hell in Houston. He's out-manned and out-gunned, and very wet behind the ears for this kind of trouble. You can almost hear "When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way..." from West Side Story as Aaron battles the collection of unsavory characters that show up for their cut of the prize...a stolen car stuffed with drug money and gold bars.
The Texas town feels like the dumping ground for budding criminals with the left-over anti semitic Nazi sympathizers from the war, the Mexican drug runners, *pederasts,* Greasers, Italian hit men, mini-mob bosses, rodeo bull riding champions, cruisin' hot rods...and young lovers (cue "Maria...I just met a girl named Valerie.."). It's dark, deep and very entertaining. The characters are richly defined and fun, topped off by Patton's incredible (voice) portrayals. They seem oddly out of place in Houston, but that is half the value of the whole show, the naïve, half-cocked bravado from a high school boy and his crazy best friend. When the action gets deadly, Aaron turns to his father, a war hero and Holland descendant, for the right-vs-might kind of muscle needed to do the job.
Good reading, maybe great, but it's still a hard-sell; I've known a lot of 17/18 yr. old boys, raised a few myself, and you don't find the kind of thought process and zealousness it takes to go single-handedly into such a hornet's nest of professional killers--even for love. And Aaron's *spells* ? I couldn't buy it, but it didn't matter. Burke's world is inhabited by villains and heroes, and I love it when I get to visit. Wish he wrote faster.
*Let me explain *darker*...that should probably read *heavier,* with a lot of crass sexual content at the beginning, which is not routine Burke. I was a little put-off (which happens rarely). But, turns out it's just some *boy-talk* that gives way to a story. It's not the tone carried throughout the novel.
A man's got to do what a man's got to do..
James Lee Burke is an exceptional story teller and a great writer. His characters are chiselled with a powerful style and gusto and move in an evocative southern atmosphere. The plot is around a young man coming of age in '50's Houston when he encounters romantic love, unrestricted violence and the continue dilemma of choices between evil and good. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but, admittedly, there is too much ; the story is too intense for high schoolers who speak like John Wayne in the good old western movies of the 60s. Eventually it doesn't ring true.
Will Patton is outstanding and his reading performance is a pleasure by itself.
The only reason would be to listen to Will Patton read excellent writing by Burke. The story was a bit like Happy Days on steroid but Burke is beautiful writer.
The narration of great writing
Galveston night club scene
Listened to the book over two days and really enjoyed Will Patton. Like these historical novels but I am ready for Dave Robicheaux and Clete.
There was "The Catcher in the Rye." Then there was "Run With the Horseman." Now there is "The Jealous Kind." If it were a movie, Will Patton's reading would win an Oscar.
This is one of James Lee Burke's finest books and was beautiflly narrated. Houston is a new venue for Burke but the flavor of it and the times were absolutely captured!
The difference between Burke's "worst work" and his "best work" is so nominal, it can't be defined-yet this book ranked at the top of the list of his books I've read. He is a true master who captivates and holds one prisoner from the first page to the last. Great story and great story telling. (Love Will Patton too!)
Love Will Patton reading for James Lee Burke. His voice lends the perfect tone to the characters and situations of which Burke writes. With this combination you see the story while listening. Can't get enough!
The Mirror Project, The Environs, Woodstain and Ink, jewelry from all of the above... and I run a hotel in my spare time.
What a distinct and abiding pleasure to be back in the words of James Lee Burke and the poetry of William Patton's storytelling. Glorious both.
Although at the beginning chapters I thought I'd return this book the lead character pulled me in. This book had great character development and a good story, as usual from JLB!
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