Last Car to Elysian Fields

James Lee Burke published a book and fiction titled Last Car to Elysian Fields in 2003. Burke consistently includes oddball characters in his writing, just like the numerous books and stories he has written. The characters appear to face many challenges and flourish in the criminal activity that occurs in both New Iberia Parish and New Orleans. Burke places Dave Robicheaux, the book's central figure, front and center. As a police officer, Dave has various home works to complete his investigations. First, he needs to track down the man who had killed another at daiquiri bar. Dave also has a task of looking for an abusive father, a prominent physician whose daughter, the driver, had died in a severe car accident. There were three teenage girls killed in the car crash, and the driver was a seventeen-year-old girl. Dave was to investigate the cause of the accident. He is also looking for a lost musician convict named Junior Crudup, Leadbelly's friend who has escaped from the prison camps in Angola. Robicheaux must also deal with the issue of a Catholic priest in controversy with the expectations from a religious leader. The priest, Dolan is brutally assaulted by a drug dealer named Gunner Ardion and Dave must make investigations and see to it that the perpetrator is brought to book.

In spite of all these duties, Dave is faced with emotional difficulties of dealing with the loss of his wife. To pursue all his duties of dealing with crime, Dace Robicheaux will be causing himself more trouble. He will expose his earlier wounds of losing his wife and familiar dangers of being killed because of pursuing the truth. Dave may encourage the destruction of himself and other people in the society who require protection. He will invite a devil that will destroy everybody.

The issues raised in the Last Car to Elysian Fields are similar to those that Americans face today including teenage alcohol misuse, drug dealers, threatening those who want to obtain justice for the innocent and brutally killing innocent people. Americans are facing the problem of adolescents drinking alcohol. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alcohol is the common drug used and abused by teenagers in the United States (1). The nation is experiencing increased deaths among the youth due to adolescents excessive drinking of alcohol. The number is over 4,300 deaths of the underage youth every year (Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1). Today, 33% of the young people are drinking alcohol, 8% drive after drinking and 20% are driven by others who have been drinking. Car crashes related to alcohol are among the many consequences of underage drinking that is facing America today (CDC 1). It is a similar case as it is happening in the Last Car to Elysian Fields. For example, the three girls who died in the car accident as described by Burke were teenagers, and the driver was one of them. America is yet to eradicate the problem of alcohol abuse among adolescents effectively. Better measures are needed to be put into place so as to deal with teenage drinking and driving.

Drug dealing is a common problem in America. In the Last Car to Elysian Fields book, Burke describes that Dave had a major task of investigating the man who had assaulted Father Dolan. Gunner Ardoin was the man who was responsible for Dolan's beating. He was well known in the area for drug dealing as well as a Pono star. The American government has been having challenges of confronting the drug dealing menace, and this is evident in Burke's novel, the Last Car to Elysian Fields. Gunner is a known person in the community; he ends up beating a Catholic priest and gets away with it. The public is in fear of reporting this man to the authorities. When he is reported, nothing much is done by the police, and he is left to cause trouble in the community. Dave Robicheaux would investigate why Gunner was not convicted of the crime of assaulting Father Dolan and also his drug dealing business. According to Dickson, America has been doing it wrong for more than 45 years in confronting and executing drug dealers in the appropriate way (1). The drug policy in the United States has failed, and America still does not have the political will of changing it.

The issues facing America today are dangerous just as those expressed in Burke's novel. According to Burke, obtaining justice for those offended in America has been a significant challenge even to the police officers who want to help in the investigations to get the truth. For example, when Dave Robicheaux with the support of P.I. Clete Purcel began the confrontation with Gunner Ardoin, the drug dealer who had assaulted Father Dalon; the battle turned out to be a different and unexpected result. Clete ended up in jail for a wrong he did not do, and Dave received an anonymous warning not to interfere in the affairs of New Orleans. It is evidence that shows a big challenge in America for dealing with crime or criminals because those in leadership protect the offenders. It is what they call organized crime which is high and not easy to confront. Beare and Naylor state that organized crime in the U.S has been the greatest challenge to reducing criminal activities in the nation (1). It forms the biggest problem among communities where government leaders support individuals. Organized crime camouflages the differences and misdirects the efforts of enforcing the law.

The seriousness of problems faced by Americans today is similar to those expressed in Burkes Novel when looking at the magnitude of the crime and the inability to enforce the law so as to reduce crime. In the process of finding evidence to put into bars the criminals, police officers are denied their rights and threatened if they proceed with the investigations. Innocent people are assaulted and others killed. However, achieving justice for these individuals in America is a challenge because those in leadership are involved in many of the crimes. With high levels of concealing evidence, criminals cannot be charged for their wrong doings. Burke says that Dave experienced more trouble when investigating the source of alcohol that led to the killing of the teenage girls in the car crash. After tracing the source of alcohol in one of the "daiquiri windows" in New Iberia, the suspect was the father of the teenage driver killed in the car crash. Dave's assumption was challenged when the owner of the murder weapon turned out to be belonging to another person. Further, it became difficult to obtain the truth regarding the killer of a legendary musician who had disappeared for many years back.

The Last Car to Elysian Fields is a novel that highlights some of the problems Americans face today. The discussion confirms that the issues that Burke wanted to address in his book are similar to those experienced by Americans today. Burke notes that America is facing the problems of dealing with adolescent alcohol abuse, drug dealing, and reducing crime. Statistics show that the use of alcohol among young people in the U.S is high and others are dying because of drunken driving. America has not achieved an efficient solution to this problem. Dealing with drug peddlers is also a big challenge for America and Burke confirms it. The drug policy does not provide the best solution to solving the issue. The report confirms that concealing of evidence is a major challenge that hinders obtaining of justice for innocent Americans. There is much more that the American government needs to do so as to reduce crime and criminal activities, underage drinking and drug dealing.

Works Cited

Beare, Margaret, and Naylor, R.T, "Major Issues Relating to Organized Crime: within the Context of Economic Relationships," Nathanson Centre for the study of organized crime and corruption, Law Commission of Canada, 1999, The Web, <>

Burke, James, "Last Car to Elysian Fields," Dave Robicheaux Book 13, Kindle Edition, Simon & Schuster, 2003, The Web <>

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "Fact Sheets - Underage Drinking," Alcohol and Public Health, 2016, The Web < >

Dickinson, Tim, "Why America Can't Quit the Drug War," Trending, Rolling Stone, 2016, The Web, <>

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2007.

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