EXCLUSIVE: After two so-so attempts to adapt James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux terrific mystery novel series into features, the New Orleans-based crime saga is being redrawn for cable TV. Fox-based producer Hutch Parker has optioned Burke’s books and is packaging the series. After how well FX and Graham Yost did with Elmore Leonard’s U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens character in the series Justified, cable sounds like just the place for Robicheaux. There is certainly a wealth of material that can be used to paint the picture of the Vietnam vet-turned police detective who works out of New Orleans and whose temper–and imposing size–often leads him to meet criminals on their own vicious terms. Burke started the series with 1987’s Neon Rain, and Simon & Schuster just released his latest, Creole Belle, the 19th book in the series. Burke’s colorful writing brings to life the French Quarter like no mystery writer I’ve read, as he and his hot-blooded, tortured hulking private eye pal Clete Purcell take on the pimps, drug dealers, Klansmen and fat cats preying on the underclass. Burke has also worked his personal outrage with the conditions that caused the disaster of Hurricane Katrina into his prose, and he has won two Edgar Awards for his work and been named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. The two attempts at features were the 1996 Heaven’s Prisoners with Phil Joanou directing and Alec Baldwin starring, and the 2009 Bertrand Tavernier-directed adaptation of In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, which starred Tommy Lee Jones.
It’s the second recent deal Parker has made with a major mystery author; he just aligned with Shane Salerno to turn Savages author Don Winslow early novel California Fire And Life into a film. Parker is just getting underway on the James Mangold-directed Hugh Jackman-starrer The Wolverine, which he’s producing along with Jackman, Lauren Shuler Donner and John Palermo.