The Tin Roof Blowdown
James Lee Burke

I wanted to forget about the Melancon brothers and the Rochons and Sidney Kovick, but I couldn’t get Father Jude LeBlanc off my mind. Regardless, I hadn’t brought up his name with Betsey Mossbacher. Why? Because the honest-to-God truth is law enforcement is not even law “enforcement.” We deal with problems after the fact. We catch criminals by chance and accident, either during the commission of crimes or through snitches. Because of forensic and evidentiary problems, most of the crimes recidivists commit are not even prosecutable. Most inmates currently in the slams spend lifetimes figuring out ways to come to the attention of the system. Ultimately, jail is the only place they feel safe from their own failure.

Unfortunately, the last people on our minds are the victims of crime. They become an addendum to both the investigation and the prosecution of the case, adverbs instead of nouns. Ask rape victims or people who have been beaten with gun butts or metal pipes or tied to chairs and tortured how they feel toward the system after they learned that their assailants were released on bond without the victims being notified.

I don’t believe in capital punishment, but I don’t argue with the prosecutors who support it. The mouths of the people they represent are stopped with dust. What kind of advocate would not try to give them voice? But what could I possibly do for Jude LeBlanc? He had volunteered for the Garden of Gethsemane, hadn’t he? Everybody takes his own bounce.

Those were the kinds of thoughts I walked around with in the middle of the day. p. 136

I went home for lunch. Alafair was in her room, working on her first attempt at a novel, tapping away on a computer she had bought at a yard sale. I had offered to buy her a better one, but she had said a more expensive computer would not help her write better. She kept a notebook on her nightstand and wrote in it before going to sleep. She had already filled two hundred pages with notes and experimental lines for her book. Sometimes she awoke in the middle of the night and wrote down the dreams she had just had. When she awoke in the morning two scenes had already written themselves in her imagination and during the next few hours she would translate them into one thousand words of double-space typescript.

She often wrote out her paragraphs in longhand, then edited each paragraph before typing it on manuscript paper. She edited each typed page with a blue pencil and placed it facedown in a wire basket and began composing another one. If she caught me reading over her shoulder, she would hit me in the stomach with her elbow. The next morning she would revise everything she had written the previous day and then start in on the one thousand words she required of herself for the present day. I was amazed at how much fine work her system produced. p. 175-6

“It’s every gambler’s weakness, kind of like a drunk’s. He thinks he can intuit and control the future, but his real mission is to lose.”

“Why would a man want to lose?”

“So he can blame the universe for all his problems.” p. 233

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