In this blistering new novel, Burke ("lord of the Asphalt Jungle"–-The Washington Post Book World
) is forced into a journey that will change the lives of the urban survivalist and his outlaw family ... forever.
The only person Burke has ever called "father," a legendary crime planner known throughout the underworld as the Prof, is in a coma, barely clinging to life in the off-the-books hospital where the crew stashed him after their last job went off the rails. So when Pryce, a shadow-man with deep (and very dark) government connections, offers a package–Presidential-grade medical services for the Prof and a wiped-clean slate for everyone who participates–Burke signs the contract without reading it.
The two-year-old son of a Saudi prince has been kidnapped. A highly professional snatch: no errors, no forensics ... and no ransom note. Burke's job: get the kid back. Whatever it costs, whatever it takes. Pryce came to Burke because the profile concluded this was the work of a pedophile ring. But after Burke turns over every rock and comes up empty in his hunt for maggots, the ultimate man-for-hire must return to the day "Baby Boy Burke" was written on his birth certificate to conduct the one interrogation that could possible save this child and write, in the blood of his enemies, the final act of his life story. An Interview with Andrew Vachss on Another Life
Q: There has been some discussion that this might be the last novel in the Burke series. Do you see it that way? And if so, why?
Andrew Vachss: I don't just "see" it that way, I wrote it that way. Another Life is the coda to the Burke novels, the final chapter in a series that has been running since 1985. The timing was no accident. If I was to keep faith to those who gone the distance with me, I had to be true to my original promise: unlike some series in which the protagonist never ages, I set out to have each book show the main characters not only aging, but changing as well. Even dying. This series is all about "Family of Choice." All the members of Burke's family share this truth: The most righteous of parents don't want their children to "follow in their footsteps," they want their children to walk past those footsteps. Burke's family have always walked the outlaw road, and can never walk another. But as the children reach adulthood, it is the family's blood obligation to fork that road for them. And that time has now come.
Q: This is the 18th volume in the Burke series. How has the series changed? How have the issues you address in the novels changed over the years?
AV: I am not sure the series has changed... because all the changes depicted throughout have been part of the original concept. Of all of the descriptions of my books, Sonny Mehta dubbing them "investigative novels" is the one I am proudest of, because I wanted the books to be Trojan horses, a platform from which I could show people a world known only to the "Children of The Secret." I didn't know there was a name for such an intent until I won the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and a French reporter told me the Burke series was "littérature engageé." My goal was not to raise consciousness, but to raise anger. Ours is a country where anything can be accomplished if enough people get angry... because, in America, we act on our collective anger. If you want proof of how that works, just take a look at how New York State finally closed the hated (and virtually unknown) “incest exception.” When I first wrote about predatory pedophiles modem-trafficking in kiddie porn, reviewers condemned the book as a product of my "sick imagination." Who would say that today? Time and time again what I have written about has "come true." This is not because I am prescient, it is that my work takes me places most citizens never see. So the issues never really change, but as more and more folks become aware of the foundational truth in my "fiction," those issues no longer flourish in the shadows. Years after the series launched, enough folks focused their rage at how children are seen as property in America to form the first PAC (Political Action Committee) solely devoted to child protection. Anyone who says "books don't change anything," or--more commonly--that crime fiction is the wrong genre for promoting social change--should take a closer look.
Q: Burke has a very close family of choice. What drew these people together, and what do you see is the future for them, beyond the series?
AV: It would be easy to say that everyone in Burke's family was a "Child of The Secret," but that would not be true. What they have most powerfully in common is a marrow-deep hatred of humans who prey on children. The rest of the question is actually answered within the book itself, and I'm not a fan of "spoilers."
Q: Over the years, you're consistently ahead of the curve in terms of spotting cultural, political, and criminal trends before they become headlines. How are you constantly able to do this? And is there anything in this new novel that you think is likely to be in tomorrow's headlines?
AV: It's no great trick to spot things you see with your own eyes, which is why I wrote about predatory pedophiles deliberately seeking work in day care centers, or organ trafficking, or cults practicing "baby-breeding"... it's a long list. Most folks had never even heard the word "piquerist" before my novel on the subject. And although it looks as if I "predicted" the use of the Internet to lure children, or what I called "noir vérité," etc., I was functioning far more as journalist than a novelist when I wrote about such things. Burke has two extraordinary skills which set him apart from his contemporaries: the "pattern-recognition software" inside his mind, and his ability to extract information. Another Life is going to showcase both of those skills far more than any previous book. As for "tomorrow's headlines," you have to remember that I wrote the book over a year ago... so some have already surfaced. Ask my scalpel-penciled editor--Edward Kastenmeier--if you doubt my word. Many times we have had to alter a manuscript because what I was "predicting" had just come to pass. I don't know how long it is going to take for some of the truth revealed in Another Life to reach public consciousness. It may be "tomorrow's headlines"... or it may be another year or two. But if you look at my track record, you'll know where to put your money down.
(Photo Credit National Association to Protect Children)
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After a nicely gritty opening (Revenge is like any other religion: There's always a lot more preaching than there is practicing), Vachss's 18th Burke thriller (after Terminal
) goes off in disparate directions that never quite coalesce into a satisfying whole. When a sniper shoots Burke's father, the Prof, the Prof's uneasy relationship with the law means that his life-threatening wounds can't be treated at a hospital. While his father's fate remains uncertain, a shadowy figure connected with U.S. intelligence draws Burke, an ex-con turned avenging angel for hire, into a kidnapping case. Early one morning, somebody removed the infant son of a Saudi prince from his father's custom Rolls, parked near an abandoned pier near the Hudson River, after the prince was serviced by a prostitute, who didn't realize the child was in the back seat. Burke visits his usual seamy corners of New York City in the ensuing investigation. Those who enjoyed previous books in the series will find more of the same. (Dec.)
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