Burke (series)

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The Burke series is an 18-book fiction series written by Andrew Vachss,[1] centered on a man named Burke and his battle against child abusers/molesters. The series is written from Burke's perspective in the first person.

The first book, Flood, was published in 1985; the 18th and final, Another Life, was published in December 2008.

Childhood/early years[edit]

Burke was abandoned at birth by his teenage mother. She wasn't sure who his father was. He was passed around from surrogate home to surrogate through his early years. It is revealed that Burke was abused in the various foster homes, severely scarring his mental state.

In his teenage years, Burke lived on the streets with gangs of other abandoned, abused children. Throughout the series Burke describes those days as when he was a "cowboy". Burke states he always intended to die robbing a convenience store or in a gang war.

Prison sentences/creating family of choice[edit]

Burke went to prison twice, and in prison found friends that become part of his Family of Choice. Of the several lifelong companions, Burke finds a fatherly figure, known as the "Prof", in his first stay in prison. The name is short for both Professor and Prophet, depending on who's listening.

The Prof teaches Burke a philosophy that Burke lives by for the rest of his life: Survive. The Prof shows Burke how to stay alive without fighting, how to use knowledge, any knowledge he can get, to have at his disposal. Burke takes this to heart, reads the entire prison library, and when he is released from prison before the Prof, Burke waits for his mentor and picks him up when he himself is released.

Burke also meets and adopts as his brother a man known as "Max the Silent" (sometimes extended to "Max the Silent, widowmaking wind of death"). Max is a Mongolian warrior, and is deaf and mute.

Burke comes to know another man known as the "Mole", an anti-Nazi Jew who specializes in bombs, weaponry, breaking and entering, chemistry, and computer hacking. The Mole is associated with Michelle, a transsexual woman who teaches Burke social skills, and Terry, a young man Burke had once rescued from a pimp and his abusive bio-family, whom Michelle and the Mole have adopted and are teaching their skills.

Burke moves on to a career of hijacking after his first release from prison, and after a crooked deal with a gang Burke ends up holding off the police with a crate full of grenades in an abandoned subway tunnel in order to give his brothers (Max, the Prof, and the Mole) time to escape.

During his second prison sentence, Burke states he "finds the freaks". Burke becomes intensely aware of child abuse and the scars it leaves upon a youth's mind. Burke spends this prison sentence "studying" the freaks, and when he is released he becomes an unlicensed private investigator. He spends considerable resources and effort to live "off the radar," with multiple false identities. He mentions a man who he pays to file false payroll and income taxes on his behalf.

Burke begins to battle child abuse, assists (a few) police in locating runaway girls, takes on cases (for generous amounts of money), runs fake subscriptions for kiddie porn in order to keep a list of known "freaks", steals, extorts, blackmails and anything else he can do to remain anonymous from police but still make a difference and, in his own way, find vengeance for the misdeeds committed to him as a child.


Dogs have been a critical part of the Burke series. Burke shares his life with Pansy, a Neapolitan Mastiff he has raised from puppyhood. She is a robust, ice cream and Chinese food eating blue Neo. For Vachss fans, Pansy and Burke are both icons for "The Children of the Secret". Pansy is modeled after Vachss' own blue Neo mastiff, named "Gussie".


  1. Flood (1985)
  2. Strega (1987)
  3. Blue Belle (1988)
  4. Hard Candy (1989)
  5. Blossom (1990)
  6. Sacrifice (1991)
  7. Down in the Zero (1994)
  8. Footsteps of the Hawk (1995)
  9. False Allegations (1996)
  10. Safe House (1998)
  11. Choice of Evil (1999)
  12. Dead and Gone (2000)
  13. Pain Management (2001)
  14. Only Child (2002)
  15. Down Here (2004)
  16. Mask Market (2006)
  17. Terminal (2007)
  18. Another Life (2008)