The Neon Rain Review

The Neon Rain  - James Lee Burke, Will Patton

If you're going to read The Neon Rain, by James Lee Burke, do yourself a favor and listen to it instead. I started reading the ebook, realized Will Patton did the narrating for the Audible edition, bought said audio book, and proceeded to have a great time. In fact, I'm going to split my rating this time around. The book (its story, anyway) gets four stars, and the performance gets five. So... 4.5, if you can dig it. Unfortunately, Patton doesn't narrate the next several books in the series. The second book (Heaven's Prisoners, which was made into a movie starring Alec Baldwin that I vaguely remember hating) isn't even available on audio. I will go on to say that the ebook is most definitely not worth the $11.99 price tag, but the audio book is worth every penny.


This was my first experience with James Lee Burke, and I was seduced by his smooth style. I couldn't stop asking myself, "Where the fuck has this author been all my life." The last time I said that about a writer was way back when I popped my Richard Laymon cherry. Burke writes like I think. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. When I see someone sweating, I don't think, "Hey, that dude's perspiring." I think, "That dude looks like a glass of ice cold coke on a summer afternoon." You can snigger and laugh, or call me a pretentious author type all you want. It's the truth. It's how I'm wired. Obviously, James Lee Burke is wired the same way. If you like metaphors and similes, this Bud's for you. 


The story is your typical bayou-noir fair, with plenty of twists and turns, but I found myself enjoying the cadence of the story more than the story itself. Burke could have been talking about grizzlies mating with polar bears during a Coca Cola commercial shoot and I still would have been engaged. 


Now, I gotta bring this up because it actually made me pause in places. This book is dated as hell. Black people are referred to as negroes, and women are treated like objects. You will hear the most racist, sexist, classist bullshit coming from Detective Robicheaux. The book's told in first person, so everything you hear is from this man's mind. Some of the bigotry is slightly funny because it makes no sense. Not that bigotry makes any sense whatsoever, but here the terminology actually makes no sense. Example: The narrator is talking about degenerates and drops this little gem, "Like a group of roarin' homosexuals." Katy Perry started playing in my head and I envisioned Chris Colfer in a lion's costume playfully swiping at me and saying, "Rawr, big fella. Rawr!" 


In summation: If you can get past the dated nature of the piece, you should have some fun. I love the way Burke writes. His prose is so clean it outshines some of the plot problems that pop up. But, make no mistake about it, Will Patton's narration is the way to go, for sure.