Rex Burns Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Winner of the 1975 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best first novel, The Alvarez Journal (1975) established Rex Burns as a realistic writer with a spare and honest style. Without relying on violent action or bizarre characters, Burns shaped the police procedural into a novel that presents a convincing portrait of a man at work in a job that is both consuming and tedious. The realities of police work mean that building a case that will hold up in court may well be more difficult than discovering the identity of a criminal. The books featuring detective Gabriel Villanueva “Gabe” Wager, which Burns describes as “chapters” in a larger work, are noteworthy for the author’s skill in using indirection and accretion to reveal the depths of a character who is reserved, self-contained, and virtually inflexible. His Colorado settings expose a working-class Rocky Mountain West that tourists never see. In addition to the Edgar Award, Burns has been a three-time recipient of the Top Hand Award from the Colorado League of Authors.

Rex Burns Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Burns, Rex. “Characterization.” The Writer 101, no. 5 (May, 1988): 11-14. Burns discusses how he developed his two main characters, Gabe Wager and Devlin Kirk. He notes the importance of a balance between consistency and change when creating a character for a series.

Burns, Rex. Rex Burns. Burns’s official Web site offers news of upcoming publications, descriptions of published works, and a biography.

Kelleher, Harry. “In the Dry, Dusty Distance, Gabe Wager Rides Again.” Review of The Leaning Land, by Rex Burns. Denver Post, October 19, 1997, p. E05. Reviewer finds the novel, centering on four deaths on the Ute reservation, satisfying as a mystery but says it lacks emotional impact, partly because Gabe Wager is a remote character and the setting is sparsely populated areas of western Colorado.

Library Journal. Review of The Avenging Angel, by Rex Burns. 108, no. 3 (February 1, 1983): 223. Reviewer praises the novel’s literary quality, depth of character, and its descriptions of the Colorado setting.

Library Journal. Review of Suicide Season, by Rex Burns. 110, no. 12 (June 1, 1987): 131. In this Devlin Kirk novel, he investigates the suicide of the primary suspect in a corporate espionage case. The reviewer found the novel to be an “engrossing mystery.”

Priestman, Martin, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Priestman covers crime fiction from the eighteenth century to the present and includes analyses of thrillers and spy fiction, the Victorian era, female and African American detectives, and postmodern uses of the detective genre.

Winks, Robin, ed. Colloquium on Crime: Eleven Renowned Mystery Writers Discuss Their Work. New York: Scribner, 1986. Contains an essay by Burns that describes his view of the police procedural and mystery writing.