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Flood Paperback – March 10, 1998
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In Vachss's acclaimed first novel, we are introduced to Burke, the avenging angel of abused children. Burke's client is a woman named Flood, who has the face of an angel, the body of a high-priced stripper, and the skills of a professional executioner. She wants Burke to find a monster -- so she can kill him with her bare hands. In this cauterizing thriller, Andrew Vachss's renegade private eye teams up with a lethally gifted vigilante to follow a child's murderer through the catacombs of New York, where every alley is a setup for a mugging and every tenement has something rotten in the basement. Fearfully knowing, buzzing with narrative tension, and written in prose as forceful as a hollow-point bullet, Flood is Burke at his deadliest -- and Vachss at the peak of his form.
An Interview with Andrew Vachss on Another Life, the Final Book in the Burke Series
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)
"Hard-boiled fiction at its best."- The Chicago Tribune Book World
"Vachss's tough guy writing style grabs you by the hair and jerks you to attention."- Detroit Free Press
"An extraordinary thriller... Vachss never flinches from the horror."- Washington Post Book World
"Burke would eat Spade and Marlowe for breakfast, not even spitting out the bones. [He] is one tough, mean, pray-to-God-you-don't-meet-him hombre."-Boston Herald
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a story about several denizens who do what it takes to survive and sometimes thrive in this environment. Reader's who didn't experience Times Square in the 80's don't realize that it really was a comic book atmosphere. Anything and everything was available there. The local characters were caricatures. Hookers and pimps wore those clothes and talked that way. Pimps drove those cars.
The main character, a private eye named Burke, survived foster homes, juvenile detention and prison in order to graduate to the mean streets of NYC. It is home to him and he metes out justice according to his own code. Think of Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis in SIN CITY. Bigger than life characters who have to slug it out with the worst of the worst to maintain some semblance of balance where they live. Fast-paced, entertaining and it comes with the guilty and satisfying feeling of well-eaned revenge. Just don't expect it to be more than it is.
Burke is an interesting character surrounded by interesting supporting characters. As the plot unfolds, author Vachss feeds out tasty tidbits of background information on Burke and his friends, who are actively engaged in helping him. The plot is interesting and flows well. It is not a who-dunnit type of story; it's more the tracking down and finding the largely faceless criminal, setting up for a climactic conclusion. As this is the first novel in a series starring Burke, some of the characters don't feel fully formed or as logically consistent in their role as they likely will in later novels. For example, one of the characters "Mole" is portrayed as a genius that lives in a bunker, and doesn't mix with people much. However, he's able to get just about anything you want and go out in the city to fix/break/create whatever you need. This doesn't fit the role of a recluse in my mind, particularly as he'd need to regularly interact a lot with people both to be able to get these things and to do the necessary work. I like the character, but he doesn't feel like he's been fine-tuned yet. (This is not uncommon for first novels in a series; it often takes an author a few novels to comfortably fill-in his world.)
Overall, I was entertained and interested enough in Burke to order the next few books in the series, to see how things go. If you like novels about the grittier side of the street, give this one a read. Four stars.