The hero of James Lee Burke's recent best-seller Rain Gods, cousin to lawman Billy Bob Holland and a genuine product of the South, both old and new, Hackberry Holland makes his first appearance in this early gem from "America's best novelist" (The Denver Post).
Against the backdrop of growing civil rights turmoil in a sultry border town, the hard-drinking ex-POW attorney yields to the myriad urgings of his wife, his brother, and his so-called friends to make a bid for a congressional seat - and finds himself embroiled in the seamy world of Texas powerbrokers. And when Hack attempts to overturn an old army buddy's conviction, and crosses paths with a beautiful union organizer who speaks to his heart in a way no one else has, he finds both a new love and a new purpose as he breaks free from the shackles of wealth and expectation to bring justice to the underserved.
©2010 James Lee Burke (P)2010 Simon & Schuster
The title of this review expresses my ambivalence between the quality of the writing and story telling, and my intense dislike of the main character. The four star rating is largely homage to Burke's writing, and his bringing to life the farm worker's struggle for fair treatment. It's also in appreciation of the light he casts on the type of people who succeed in politics, and why.
There are scenes between Hack and Veresa that are drawn with a surgeon's scalpel, and you can almost feel the blood oozing out of your own pores. Similarly, Hack's brother's complaints have the ring of truth and I longed for him to throw Hack out on his drunk butt.
Hack's political career is drawn from the headlines. The lurid details of his drunken escapades can be found in the real reports of politicians' misdeeds, sorry to say.
Hackberry Holland is an abhorrent character. He's a selfish, self-absorbed, egotistical, alcoholic who blames all of his problems on other people. In many ways, he's stereotyped, as are the women with whom he interacts.
He falls into the farm workers struggle not out of principle, but in an alcoholic binge. I would have had more respect for him had he had some principle about it.
Yes, he was a POW in a Chinese camp and his treatment there defies comprehension. Burke describes it extensively, and in great detail. Too much is given over to this, so much so that it felt like mere sensationalism, a disappointment from a writer of Burke's ability.
Will Patton does his usual excellent job narrating the book.
Although overall I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure I'll read any more books featuring Hackberry Holland.
I love Burke, but I don't think this is quite a good as the others I have listened to. It starts out a little slowly, but then speeds up and has a great ending. Will Patton is terrific as always.
Don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Trip's cool though. Use Audible to make gym-training sane... And rip my imagination.
I have been a James Lee Burke fanboy… just look at my other reviews. I've called him a poet and looked forward to each new Dave Robicheaux chapter at an epic American cultural turning point. Mark Hammer is one of the greatest Audible voices of all time. So I am overwhelmed with disappointment in Hackberry Holland asa stereotypical ideologue's over-written lead character.
When writers present ideas, they can become great, when they represent ideas, they are propagandists. Maybe I should have listened to all of this polemic filled with hateful white south westerners and saintly people of color.I couldn't since quickly it seemed as if he was again visiting a stereotypical place where there was no grey, no nuance, no other side but the whiny argument that Burke presents. As the son of a union leader, I understand the struggle and its virtues. I also understand its excesses, contradictions, and frustrations.
An artist asks questions, a partisan answers them. The world of Robicheaux is riddled with questions… Hackenberry is about unambiguous answers. Robichieux's a question mark, Hackenberry an exclamation point.
Burke is singing to the choir. How disappointing. Once upon a time a young writer turned in an assignment to his editor. She read it, looked up and said, 'Ted, you're really enraged by this issue aren't you?" "YES!" he retorted.
She slid the article back across her desk, "It shows. Rewrite it."
Mr. Burke, it shows.
I love James Lee Burke - but I must say this was probably my least favorite book. His second book with this charater is better, and you don't need to read this one to enjoy the next. Skip it -
This story was very good, but very dark. The main character, Hackberry Holland, is an alcoholic rich lawyer with a lot of issues, especially his past as a prisoner of war in Korea.
James Lee Burke is an excellent writer and I like how he expressed the good and the bad sides of Hackberry. I definitely plan on reading the next book in the series.
One of my favorite narrators, Will Patton, was awesome in his narration of this novel.
A believable character and a plot.
Anger at the fraudulent title, which was misleading as to content.
This is one of the worst books I ever read. A character who is an alcoholic, who cheats on his elegant wife, and who is unreliable when it comes to working his law practice with his brother, and yet he is a knight in shining armor when it comes to social injustice. Get real. I will never purchase another one of this author's books again.
Burke is a well above average talented writer, and this is interesting for its glimpse at the young novelist figuring it out. There are some nice passages, and you get that there's really something at stake: the tough-guy protagonist has some real decisions to make about where his allegiance lies and how much he can tolerate in the face of deep corruption. I can't help reading it as Burke himself trying out different aesthetics for his own work.
That said, this doesn't age all that well. The protagonist's narcissism gets old. The reconciliation of an early 1970s counter-culture sensibility with 1950s noir shows its seams (and feels forced). The maybe-interesting-for-her-day love interest gets reduced too quickly to arm candy after a promising beginning. And the climax resolves less than I'd like.
I enjoyed parts of it a good bit as a flashback to an earlier time, but it didn't hold up for me through the end, and I found myself dragging for the last quarter.
A Korean war vet, lawyer, and new Democratic candidate for Congress from Austin TX in the '70s, the protagonist "Hack" is bitter, estranged from his wife, brother, others, self. Though he holds himself to a high standard, he also questions his own worth just a little less than he discounts the motives of those around him. He has the attractive sensibilities of a hippie (open-minded and anti-bigotry) together with the appetites of a good ol' boy (drinking, driving fast, and whoring). His deep secret - which forms the spine of the narrative - is sufficiently important and well presented. The reading by Will Patton is outstanding, a great pleasure with perfectly fitting voices. The story is just a little less than compelling, too much of a great guy with a deep soul...who is righteous and drinks way too much.
Tell us about yourself!
I have listened to some books in each of James Lee Burke's story lines. His wonderful descriptions and Will Patton's narration are music to my ears.
However, in spite of the writing talent, I found this book depressing. If you have lived with the return of a haunted, wounded veteran that finds himself not wanting to be what everyone else expects, turns to alcohol, and becomes contrary on all fronts, you will recognize the descent of Holland. Fortunately Burke wraps this up with some optimism.
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