Of these, one of my all-time favourites is the American novelist James Lee Burke. I admire the astonishing richness of his fabricated worlds, the way he transports the reader effortlessly (or so it seems) into his characters' complexities, and the sheer beauty of his writing.
I have just finished reading his latest book, Creole Belle, which is the newest in a series set in New Orleans around his protagonist, Dave Robicheaux. Here is an extract which may demonstrate why I so enjoy the richness of these works:
"The boughs of the cypress trees were as brittle and delicate as gold leaf in the late sun. An alligator gar was swimming along the edge of the lily pads, its needle-nosed head and lacquered spine and dorsal fin parting the surface with a fluidity that was more serpent than fish. The great cogged wheels on the drawbridge were lifting its huge weight into the air, sihouetting its black outline against a molten sun. Then the wind gusted and a long shaft of amber sunlight seemed to race down the center of the bayou, like a paean to the close of day and the coming of night and the cooling of the earth, as though vespers and the acceptance of the season were a seamless and inseparable part of life that only the most vain and intransigent among us would deny."
Often in the books I will come across passages which I stop to re-read, because in some way they are so thought-provoking or meaningful. I have heard interviews with Mr Burke, and it seems to me that some of the comments made by the narrator in this book possibly voice opinions which the writer holds himself.
This paragraph brought me up short:
"I've acquired little wisdom with age. For me, the answers to the great mysteries seem more remote than ever. Emotionally, I cannot accept that a handful of evil men, none of whom ever fought in a war, some of whom never served in the military, can send thousands of their fellow countrymen to their deaths or bring about the deaths or maiming of hundreds of thousands of civilians and be lauded for their deeds. I don't know why the innocent suffer."