cover image The Convict and Other Stories

The Convict and Other Stories

James Lee Burke. Louisiana State University Press, $0 (145pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-1273-1

Burke brings the reader inside the minds and emotions of his characters, in stories that strike to the heart. They each concern the search for a reason, a purpose behind the interminable battle between good and evil. ""Uncle Sidney and the Mexicans'' focuses on a maverick tomato picker, fired for petty reasons and deprived of a day's pay, who is hired by the narrator's uncle and enabled thereby both to revenge himself on his former boss and to teach a lesson about Mexicans to the local bigots. A younger narrator, in ``Losses,'' is troubled in the confessional by his priest's reluctance to condemn. Only long afterward does he comprehend the arrogance youthful innocence that refuses to countenance human flaws. The closing sentence in ``When It's Decoration Day,'' about a young Civil War soldier, elegantly epitomizes the subtle impact of Burke's storytelling: as a shell bursts, the boy ``thought he felt a finger reach up and anoint him casually on the brow.'' November 24