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
While this selection is not Burke's best (after all, it is an early work) it is still VERY good. I disagree with the review that says this book isn't "about" anything. My feeling is that if you like Burke's style (and his characters), you'll like this. Burke simply knows how to write a novel. And, of course, Will Patton narrating is terrific.
After listening to Rain Gods, I was looking forward to hearing more about Hackberry Holland. This one was disappointing. It was disjointed, rambling and I never got a hint of the plot. I wish I'd passed on this one.
I think the problem many of us are having with this book is that Burke's heroes are all invariably reformed alchoholics on the right side of everything. They are sensitive, intelligent and wise, yet can kick a bad guy's a-- at just the right time. Sure, they all make some colossal blunder during any given book, but we know they have hearts of gold. When he dipped back into Hackberry Holland's back-story for this one, I had a hard time identifying with the young Hack because he seemed despicable to me. I had a doubly hard time understanding how a beautiful young East Coast liberal activist could fall for boorish drunken lout (I guess you had to be there). His transition from drunken slob to enlightened soul was not quite as well handled by the Author (who's many books I have thoroughly enjoyed) as usual, but I'll give him credit, because it was outside of his normal formula. The ending and epilogue were worth the price of admission for me and should be worth a few more Hackberry Holland books down the road. He can turn a beautiful phrase. Well read, as usual.
I am a huge fan of James Lee Burke but I could not figure out what this book was about. Was it about Hollands father? Burke continued to reference Hollands father and John Wesley Hardin. This added nothing to the book. Was it about Holland's Korean war experience? Again he spends quite a bit of time recounting this experience with only little relevance at the end of the book.
It is hard to become interested in the welfare of Holland. He has no charisma and you really do not care what happens to him. Burke should retire this uninteresting character. As usual, Will Patton was wonderful as the narrator. I will not waste my time with another book with Holland as the character.
If you're really tough skinned you might like it. It was a realistic portrayal of an appalling character - Hack Holland was a good guy in Rain Gods (this is a prequel) so he must have had an awakening at some point but I couldn't stand to listen to enough of this one to find out what it was, if it even happens in this book.
James Lee Burke is one of my favorite authors - I hope he comes up with something less gritty next time. I mean he's always gritty, but this book was beyond the pale.
Will Patton was as great as ever. One thing different was this book was told in the first person, so everything is from the main character's point of view.
It was interesting at first to see into the soul of Hack Holland but very quickly I knew more about him than I wanted to.
This is the first time Burke's beautifully poetic narration was not enough to balance the horror that is always a part of his stories.
I have read/listened to nearly everything Burke has ever written. His Dave Robauchaux novels are some of the best written and Billy Bob Holland series is also very good. Burke also does a great job of evoking locations so that you can "be there."
Patton has a compelling and wonderful voice, but he is a "scenery chewer." He doesn't seem to want to let the story compel the reader; he forces emotion into nearly every scene with equal ferocity so that mild annoyance and a moment of happiness and sheer terror are all read with the same fierce ee nun see ay shun. It's quite distracting. You can almost see him squinting and pulling his lips back over his teeth in order to speak every syllable. The book (and most of Burke's work) is already pretty intense. Patton's narration makes it exhausting.
I don't feel like any of it was particularly "interesting" as, except for the minute study of abject misery that was the prison camp chapters, not much depth was given to any aspect. Every plot line seemed to be a vehicle for setting up Holland's rage and unrelenting self-destruction and justifying his often selfish, amoral or merely unconscionable behavior (although Burke really does love this sort of character; he writes them a lot.) Yes, Holland redeemed himself in the end but it all seemed terribly predictable.
Truth be told... boredom. Oh, and he isn't great at reading women. They all tend to sound the same.
Write this review and not listen to another Burke novel narrated by Will Patton (this is my third and last.)
While a powerful comparison of politics, civil rights and life in the South to a Korean prisoner of war camp, this book becomes one long nightmare. I haven't quite finished it yet, but the prolonged, painfully detailed, and seemingly endless descriptions of the brutality in the camp--down to the constant descriptions of the defecations, starvation, and bloody, bone-crunching horrors was just too much. Most of us have been alive long enough to have heard the gruesome details of such imprisonment, but having it constantly thrown at the reader, gory detail after gory detail for so very much of the book, was not necessary to use it as the metaphor it was.
Will Patton was great in his narration, but the vile nightmares of unimaginable cruelty totally dominated this book, and I never would have chosen it if I knew i would have to share every brutal moment of those continual nightmares.
I imagine it is much like an abused child who goes on to become an abuser. He went through the gutters of humanity in war, only to seek out the gutters of humanity in politics--particularly southern racist politics. And his remedy seemed to be self sedation via alcohol and $3 Mexican whores". I'm hoping an enlightenment will evolve, but so far, the author seems determined to keep us in the gutter with the prisoners.
The approach of comparing the cruelty and inhumanity of racism with the cruelty and inhumanity of war is compelling--but enough is enough. I'm on the fence about this author; and this will make me take a step back for awhile.
better plot and less details on clothing and surroundings
didn't finish only listened to less than 1/2 of book
Yes, While I haven't read any of James Lee Burkes books in print it is because the audio versions are so outstanding I don't want to read the print versions. I would be missing out on the great performances of Will Patton and others. More dimensional than reading.
Will Patton is the stud-muffin of the audio world.
Outside Michael Connelly, been a long time since I've come across an author I've had to get through all his books before I can move onto another book or author. I've listened to all James Lee Burkes books exclusively as audiobooks. Wouldn't have it any other way. Almost all of the performances are great but Will Patton's are exceptional. The listening experience is a cross between listening to great old time radio mystery and being in the theater. I can at one and the same time visualize the scenes and put myself in their midst. This is unique to the audiobook experience.
Could not get thru first hour. Tried 2 times and still could not.
Boring and too much drinking. we got it that hero was damaged by the POW camp, move on
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