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Southern Lit Thursday: James Lee Burke’s “In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead”

21 Aug 2014

written by Mod Mobilian


Given the popularity of the HBO series True Detective, it is appropriate to feature the original South Louisiana detective James Lee Burke’s character Dave Robicheaux and Mississippi-North Louisiana’s equivalent Greg Iles’ Penn Cage.

These are typical of a new wave of Southern Gothic neo-noir crime drama. As a group they feature the underworld villians comprised of the Dixie Mafia or other organized crime, the Klu Klux Klan or other white supremacists, and corrupt police and politicians. The victims are often prostitutes or innocent African-Americans. Fundamentalist Christian preachers may play a role, sometimes sinister. And the protangonists are fallible and imperfect anti-heroes, with alcoholism, drug use and infidelity being common. Graphic violence is a dominant feature.

Even if you are not a fan of Southern Gothic literature that makes all Southerners stereotypic eccentrics, religious freaks, cult members, corrupt politicians, or racists – these stories also carry some valid observations on the South.


In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (1993)

Availability: Hardback/Paperback (Mobile Public Library).  Ebook.  Audiobook (Mobile Public Library, Audible,

Dave Robicheaux is a former New Orleans police officer, now an Iberia Parish (Louisiana) sheriff’s deputy who lives in New Iberia with his wife Bootsie and adopted daughter Alafair.  There are several plotlines, which include: the filming of a Civil War movie in the nearby swamp, from which Robicheaux befriends the alcoholic male star; the finding of the shackled body of a black man who disappeared in the 1950s after having an affair with a white local business owner’s wife; the grisly murders of local prostitutes; and the return of New Orleans mafia boss Julie Balboni to New Iberia.



Author: James Lee Burke

Burke grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast and attended the University of Louisiana Lafayette.  He has homes in New Iberia, Louisiana and Montana. He was written twenty Dave Robicheaux novels, as well as crime novel set in Texas and a variety of other novels. His daughter Alafair Burke (namesake of Robicheaux’s daughter) is also a crime writer.

In the Electric Mist (2009 film)

Available: DVD, Streaming: Netflix, Amazon (Prime free), Hulu, YouTube

The 2009 film adaptation In the Electric Mist was directed by Bertrand Tavernier (The Clockmaker, The Judge and the Assassin, Round Midnight, Life and Nothing But, The Princess of Montpensier) and stars Tommy Lee Jones as Dave Robicheaux, John Goodman as Balboni, Buddy Guy as Hogman, and Levon Helm as Gen. John Bell Hood. It was direct-to-DVD in the U.S. but the director’s cut version won several awards in France. Tavernier wrote an account of the filming titled Step by Step into The Electric Mist.


Full Movie (YouTube)

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