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James Lee Burke (born December 5, 1936) is an American author of mysteries, best known for his Dave Robicheaux series. He has won an Edgar Award for Black Cherry Blues (1990) and Cimarron Rose (1998). The Robicheaux character has been portrayed twice on screen, first by Alec Baldwin (Heaven's Prisoners) and then Tommy Lee Jones (In the Electric Mist). Burke has also written seven miscellaneous crime novels, two short story collections, four books starring protagonist Texas attorney Billy Bob Holland, and three books starring Billy Bob's cousin Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland.
Burke was born in Los Angeles, Texas, but spent most of his childhood on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and University of Missouri, receiving a BA and MA from the latter. He has worked in a wide variety of industries over the years, including oil, journalism and social care. He taught for the creative writing program at Wichita State University during the '80s, shortly before resettling in Montana.
Burke owns homes with his wife, Pearl (née Pai Chu), in Lolo, Montana, and New Iberia, Louisiana. They have four children, including their daughter Alafair Burke, who is also a prominent crime writer. They also have four grandchildren. Burke is the cousin of short story writer Andre Dubus II.
In 1988 James Lee Burke Burke was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. . Burke received the 2002 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the "literary intellectual heritage of Louisiana." The award was presented to him by then Lt. Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, on November 2, 2002, at a ceremony held at the inaugural Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge, LA. James Lee Burke has been recognized three times by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA). The MWA awarded its Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year in 1990 for Black Cherry Blues. In 1998 the MWA again awarded its "Edgar" for Best Novel of the year for Burke's Cimarron Rose. Then in 2009 James Lee Burke received the MWA's Grand Master Award. It is rare for a mystery novelist to win both an "Edgar" [Edgar Allan Poe] Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.