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Every Cloak Rolled in Blood



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About The Book

In his most autobiographical novel to date, James Lee Burke continues the epic Holland family saga with a writer grieving the death of his daughter while battling earthly and supernatural outlaws.

Novelist Aaron Holland Broussard is shattered when his daughter Fannie Mae dies suddenly. As he tries to honor her memory by saving two young men from a life of crime amid their opioid-ravaged community, he is drawn into a network of villainy that includes a violent former Klansman, a far-from-holy minister, a biker club posing as evangelicals, and a murderer who has been hiding in plain sight.

Aaron’s only ally is state police officer Ruby Spotted Horse, a no-nonsense woman who harbors some powerful secrets in her cellar. Despite the air of mystery surrounding her, Ruby is the only one Aaron can trust. That is, until the ghost of Fannie Mae shows up, guiding her father through a tangled web of the present and past and helping him vanquish his foes from both this world and the next.

Drawn from James Lee Burke’s own life experiences, Every Cloak Rolled in Blood is a devastating exploration of the nature of good and evil and a deeply moving story about the power of love and family.


Chapter One Chapter One
I GAZE UPON THE season from my veranda and know all too well its gaseous vapors and fading colors and deceptive embrace. An orange sun hangs in the cottonwoods down by the river, backdropped by the razored peaks of the Bitterroot Mountains. For me, the sun’s lack of warmth is a harbinger of our times, or at best a sign of our collective ephemerality. But please don’t be taken aback. Age is not kind, and it leaves a mean stamp on an elderly man’s perceptions.

A red Ford F-150 pulls to a stop on the dirt track between my barn and the river. There’s a bullet hole in the back window, frosted around the edges like a crisp of ice. A gangly teenage boy vaults over the tailgate and can-sprays a black swastika on the door of my barn. His stomach is flat as a plank, his hair grown over his ears. He pisses in my cattle guard while rotating his head on his neck, his urine flashing in the sunlight.

I walk down the slope, the air damp and tannic from the decomposition of leaves. The boy climbs back into the bed of the pickup and bangs his fist on the cab’s roof. The driver wears a red cap. A man in the passenger seat turns his head slowly toward me, his salt-and-pepper hair scalped around the ears, his face insentient, perhaps hardened by the elements or a life ill chosen. A beer can rests on the dashboard. The truck drives away, swaying in the potholes.

“You don’t belong here!” the boy shouts, trying to keep his balance, a childlike grin on his face, one that seems incongruent with the nature of his visit. “Go somewhere else!”

He shoots me the bone, his free hand cupping his package.

A HALF HOUR LATER a state police trooper gets out of her cruiser with a clipboard and fits on her campaign hat. She brushes her nose with the back of her wrist, as is our wont during the virus that has changed our culture. She can’t be over five-two. Her hair is thick, the color of slate, her skin tanned, her eyes recessed and bright and happy like those of a young girl who is curious about the world. She asks me to tell her everything that happened. When I finish, she makes no comment, and I wonder if I have overestimated her.

“My description doesn’t help much?” I said.

“You didn’t get a tag number?”

“There was mud on the plate.”

“The dispatcher said you’ve had trouble out here before,” she says.

“Kids who threw a sack of pig guts in my yard.”

“Why would anyone want to paint a swastika on your barn?” she says.

“They don’t like me?”

She puffs one cheek, then the other, as though rinsing her mouth.

“I called 911 because I’m required to do so by my insurance company,” I say. “I appreciate your coming out. I doubt anything will come of this, so let’s forget it.”

“How about giving me a chance to do my job?”


“How old are you?”

“Eighty-five. Why do you ask?”

“You don’t look it.”

“It’s Dorian Gray syndrome.”

She looks into space, then at the two vehicles parked among the maple trees in my front yard. “You live with others?”

“I’m a widower.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“I live by myself.”

“You look like Sam Shepard. You know, the actor?”

I don’t reply. For many people who have had a recent personal loss, superficial conversation has an effect like an emery wheel grinding the soul into grit. The swastika on my barn door seems to become uglier and more intrusive as the day grows colder and more brittle, like winter light on a grave.

“Hello?” she says.


“I mentioned Sam Shepard as a compliment. Know any white supremacists hereabouts?”

“I’ve seen some people at the grocery and the PO with AB tats.”

“Where did you hear about the Aryan Brotherhood?”

“Bumming around.”

“You didn’t try to take a picture of the truck or the kid shooting you the finger?”

“I don’t have a cell phone.”

“You’re the writer, aren’t you?”

“I’m ‘a’ writer.”

“I think there’s something you’re not telling me, Mr. Broussard. I think you stirred up some white supremacists. I’ve seen your letters to the editor.”

“White supremacists don’t read the editorial page.”

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“Why not?”

“Stay away from these guys. They’re not just racists. They mule the meth that gets brought into the res from Denver and Billings. I don’t think the high number of murdered and missing Montana Indian women is coincidence, either. Are you listening, sir?”

“These guys who sprayed my barn weren’t dope mules. They’re leftover nativists. They think their time has rolled around again.”

“Nativists? You’re not talking about Indians?”


She takes a business card from her shirt pocket and writes on it and hands it to me. “That’s my cell number on the back.”

“Why the special treatment?”

“You read Oscar Wilde.”


“You mentioned Dorian Gray. I assume you know who wrote the novel.”

The skin on my face shrinks.

“I read one of your books,” she says. “I think you’re a nice man, Mr. Broussard. But you need to take care of yourself. There’s some mean motor scooters down in the Bitterroots.”

The name on her card is Ruby Spotted Horse. “Officer, I didn’t mean—” I start.

She gets in the cruiser and starts the engine and hooks on a pair of yellow-brown aviator glasses, then rolls down the window. “Did you lose your daughter recently?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, sir.” She looks in her outside mirror. “Watch out. I don’t want to run over your foot.”

I nod but don’t speak, which is what I do when others mention my daughter’s death. I still haven’t dealt with her loss, and I probably never will.

Ruby Spotted Horse makes a U-turn and drives down the dirt lane, the sun’s reflection wobbling like an orange balloon trapped inside her rear window.

About The Author

Photograph by James McDavid

James Lee Burke is a New York Times bestselling author, two-time winner of the Edgar Award, and the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts in Fiction. He has authored forty novels and two short story collections. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 23, 2023)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982196608

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