Thursday, May 15, 2008

Will Andrew Vachss kill off Burke?

I got this from the Vachss mailing list, announcing the next Burke novel:

ANOTHER LIFE is the end of a journey that began with FLOOD, Andrew Vachss' first novel featuring career criminal Burke and his Family of Choice. "I didn't set out to write a series. Who but a terminal narcissist would?" the author says of his 1985 debut. But twenty-three years--and seventeen Burke novels--later, Andrew Vachss is finally bringing down the curtain on a series that has been described as "urban nightmares" by Publishers Weekly, and "strong, gritty, gut-bucket stuff" by the Chicago Tribune. Anyone who has felt a part of the family that includes recurring series characters Max, the Mole, Michelle, the Prof, Terry, Clarence, and Mama--characters the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says "are as sharply defined as if they were etched in steel"--will want to be there for the end of the journey, as best-selling, award-winning author Andrew Vachss ties up the loose ends, and sends his Family of Choice off to ... ANOTHER LIFE.

So is this end of Burke? Will Mr. Vachss retire from yearly novels and concentrate on his law practice? Will he be creating a new series, or continue to write pulp novels like The Getaway Man, or historical crime fiction like Two Trains Running?

I've been a big fan for a long time, and I've written about him before. If you get Parade magazine, you've probably seen his articles about the haphazard and near-criminal manner in which we protect children in this country; we'll childproof our playgrounds and put feel-good laws in place, but we still let incest be treated like a family problem rather than a crime in many states. And our ancient method of juvenile justice and barely-monitored foster child programs creates the next generation of hard-core criminals raised on violence and abuse.

His novels have served as "Trojan horses" as he calls them, to put the serious issues in the reader's lap long before the tabloid news makes it the latest scare. He's used them to champion successful causes like Don't Buy Thai, a boycott which got Thailand to kick out the child-molester sex tourists, and PROTECT, a Political Action Committee that began as a movement to close the aforementioned incest loophole, but is now poised to make children as powerful on Capitol Hill as the NRA- with your help.

He's written many novels and I'm wondering if he's burned out- 18 Burke novels is a lot. I'm sure there are more Spenser novels out there, but these are usually gut-wrenching and I can imagine it taking a lot out of you. There are many Burke fans out there, but at some point you realize you're preaching to the choir, and need a new pulpit. Hopefully that's where this is going. I'll miss Burke, but I'd miss Mr. Vachss's dispatches from the front lines much more.

You can check out excerpts of his writings on his website.

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