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Publisher's Summary

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Maybe I'm just not sophisticated

I think Mr.Burke is talented and writes a compelling story, however, in places I feel he travels a long way for a short drink of water. I'm not sure I will use credits for another of his books for a long time.

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this is a great book.

this book was a great introduction to a powerful character. you can see elements that shape the Dave robicheaux novels later. seems that for many the story didn't move fast enough but, like in life, it's not the destination but the journey.
read it.

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A Look Back Through a New Lens

I moved to Texas in the fifties as a high school student. This book makes you the no about, what you just sailed through. What a great book club read. A late night and more wine, please to finish the discussion.

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Burke and Patton-A Winner

Anyone that loves the Dave Robicheaux novels will love these too. Hackberry Holland is the gruff, hard drinking character that reminds me of Dave’s side kick, Clete. I look forward to the rest of the series.

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  • blp
  • San Jose, CA United States
  • 10-01-17

Too Much Description

Too much description totally unrelated to the story or stories because the author jumped all over the place.

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This Review Needs A Title...So, I Gave it One

Hackberry Holland is a pretty compelling character. I was riveted to everything he said and did,. He listens to absolutely no one, does pretty much whatever he likes, and is the kind of guy we all want to be. He gives up a political career for a woman and an alcohol filled, liberal life. Loyal to his friends, he takes the case of an Army buddy and the story is off and running. I enjoyed it more than many from this author.

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I think I'll go back to Louisiana

James Lee Burke attracted me with the early exploits of Dave Robicheaux. I believe it was "Black Cherry Blues" that first captured my attention around 1990. I could relate to Dave, and Burke's writing swept me along with the story like leaves in a dusty breeze, carried along toward you knew not where until the currents slowed, subsided and gently set you down in the soft green grasses of contemplation.

Not so with Hack. Hack Holland, plain and simply, is a jerk. All of Burke's brilliant wordsmithing, attempting to paint him with an altruistic brush couldn't cover up his narcissistic, self-absored character. His social warrior bravado, from which he appears to derive his obsessive pleasure, is fabricated and sickening and the level of depravity to which he is willing to sink for some supposed betterment to mankind is a stretch, because Hack, like all his kind, is in it only for Hack.

Maybe it's there, but I didn't pick up Burke's socialist bent in the Robicheaux books. Here it is evident, using his truly brilliant literary prowess to push a certain political agenda; introduced like an annoying and unpleasant odor that wont go away; an agenda hidden in the swelling storm of an emotional story like faint whispers behind the cracking of distant thunder, suggestions wrapped in a cloak, a pill more easily swallowed concealed in the meat of an engaging yarn.

I had enjoyed Robicheaux and thought to expand into some of Burke's other worlds. I tried "Wayfaring Stranger" and although Weldon Holland's was not as powerful a story as the novels depicting the New Orleans detective, I did enjoy it. After all, it was JLB in all his rhetorical genius. So I decided to start with the Holland's from the beginning. I should have avoided Texas and remained in Louisiana.

I've already purchased "The Jealous Kind" and "House of the Rising Sun" so while I may be making the Holland's acquaintance again, it doesn't excite me by any stretch of the imagination.

The story had potential but was overpowered by the unfortunate character of Hackberry Holland; the kind of disappointment like rolling the scoop of ice cream off the cone and into the dirt with the first lick. You're left with the sugar cone, but don't know whether you should eat it on principle, or crush it beneath the leather sole of you Justin's in disgust.

Will Patton did a great job, as usual. He captured the intensity of the story line and his characterization is impeccable.

I am looking forward to the next Robicheaux book, but the thought of stepping up onto Hackberry's porch again is like looking forward to self flagellation.

Too bad John Wesley Hardin only hit the wooden columns on the porch and didn't follow through with his threat to granddaddy Holland. It would have saved us the less than auspicious experience of accompanying his masochistic, egocentric grandson on a senseless romp through South Texas.

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"I'm hooked on Burke for sure"

What a fantastic read. I did not want this book to end. The richness of the prose., and the dialogue. All enhanced by the astounding voice of Will Patton. Patton totally captured the era and region and enmeshed one totally in the story. The way he did the Senator's lisp was brilliant. Burke reels you in immediately. Before you know it you're eagerly awaiting the next sentence. He plunges us into the life of hard drinking ex POW and southern lawyer extraordinaire Hackberry Holland. Hack's wife and brother want him to run for the Senate but Hack gets distracted when he gets a call for help from an ex Army buddy. He soon finds himself involved with the farm workers union in a small town. Hack can't seem to let go and concentrate of the bid for the senate. He becomes entangled deeper with workers and rubs the local law enforcement the wrong way. His brother and wife are desperate to get Hack to fall in line but Hack can't seem to stop himself especially after he meets Rie. Hack must come to terms with his past and reassess his future.

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Background for series

What did you like best about Lay Down My Sword and Shield? What did you like least?

This is all about the life story of the Hackberry Holland, the new series. There is very little plot or story otherwise. I fast forwarded through much, especially the Korean War POW part which is a major portion of the book.

Has Lay Down My Sword and Shield turned you off from other books in this genre?

Not at all. I will probably listen to the next story but after a long break with other books. I love the genre. James Lee Burke's preaching can be tiresome.

What does Will Patton bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

His narrative is always excellent. I don't like when the narrator tries to do a different voice or accent for each character. Paxton read with an accent and emotion appropriate for the story. He is perfect for the Burke stories.

Was Lay Down My Sword and Shield worth the listening time?

Only if you plan on reading the series, so you have the background. I am really not sure. if you care why Holland was a drunk and philanderer and left her former life to become a sheriff?

Any additional comments?

Disappointing based on reviews I read.

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Good writing for time and place

This is an excellent book on life in the south during a tumultuous time period. Great characters. Can't think of a better narrator for this than Will Patton. Read one other, 1st book in the Robicheaux series. This one is a stand alone. Will read many more. Quality writer. Listen too it. You can't lose.