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Review: Wayfaring Stranger, by James Lee Burke

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Burke has been around for a long time. He’s pushing 80 and shows no sign of slowing down. He might even be getting better with age.
His latest novel has a bit of everything. Bonnie and Clyde show up right off the bat and Weldon Holland (a youngster at the time) takes a pot shot at them. Time passes and Weldon is in the latter stages of the Second World War. There are hair-raising escapes and lifetime friendships forged.
But the meat of the novel takes place after the war, when Weldon and his friend from the war, Herschel Pine, become involved in the oil industry in the American South. Herschel has obtained some German welding machines that revolutionize the welding of oil pipelines and the two of them start to make money . . . and a name for themselves.
Also an important part of the picture are Weldon’s wife Rosita Lowenstein, whom he and Herschel rescued from a Nazi death camp, and Herchel’s wife Linda Gail, an aspiring actress.
Linda, a small town girl, becomes ensnarled in the nefarious machiavellian inner workings of the Hollywood film industry, which complicates life for both her and her friends. Rosita, besides being Jewish, is widely considered to be a Communist, not a good thing in post-war America. And Weldon and Herschel tend to do things their own way, which irritates the established big players in the oil and gas industry.
There are plot twists and turns involving, for the most part, the truly mean and vindictive actions of the big shots in both industries. Burke seems to have a large chip on his shoulder for both and the people who represent them are not nice people.
A wild card is Roy Wiseheart, a man of immense wealth, who keeps running into Weldon. They have a series of encounters and Weldon never seems to figure out just who Roy is and what he is up to. His wife Clara is another story. She’s an anti-Semite who sets her sights on Rosita and everyone around her. Much of the novel is concerned with the good guys trying to figure out just who it is who is making their lives a living hell and how to put a stop to it.
The good guys win, but are not unscathed. Bonnie and Clyde’s car shows up near the end

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