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Publisher's Summary

Few writers in America today combine James Lee Burke's lush prose, cracking story lines, and tremendous sense of history and landscape. In Cimarron Rose, longtime fans of the Dave Robicheaux series found that the struggles of Texas defense attorney Billy Bob Holland show Burke at his best in exploring classic American themes - the sometimes subtle, often violent strains between the haves and the have-nots; the collision of past and present; the inequities in the criminal justice system.

Heartwood is a kind of tree that grows in layers. And as Billy Bob's grandfather once told him, you do well in life by keeping the roots in a clear stream and not letting anyone taint the water for you. But in Holland's dusty little hometown of Deaf Smith, in the hill country north of Austin, local kingpin Earl Deitrich has made a fortune running roughshod and tainting anyone who stands in his way. Billy Bob has problems with Deitrich and his shamelessly callous demeanor, but can't shake the legacy of his passion for Deitrich's "heartbreak-beautiful" wife, Peggy Jean.

When Holland takes on the defense of Wilbur Pickett - a man accused of stealing an heirloom and three hundred thousand dollars in bonds from Deitrich's office - he finds himself up against not Earl's power and influence, but also a past Billy Bob can't will away.

A wonderfully realized novel, rich in Texas atmosphere and lore, and a dazzling portrait of the deadly consequences of self-delusion, Heartwood could only have been written by James Lee Burke, a writer in expert command of his craft.

©2011 James Lee Burke (P)2012 Simon & Schuster Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    65
  • 4 Stars
    51
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    23
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    7

Performance

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    50
  • 4 Stars
    41
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    23
  • 2 Stars
    6
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    17

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    63
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    45
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    17
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Sort by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Ed
  • 06-25-13

Not JLB's best, narrator needs coaching

What would have made Heartwood better?

Definitely a better narrator. It's hard to tell how much the narration is affecting my enjoyment of the book, but it doesn't seem to be one of his best.

The other Holland books had a flair for creating really heinous "baddies" similar to his Robichaux series. This one seems bland in comparison. The other characters also seem to be uninteresting and predictable. Maybe not having Will Patton narrate is taking out some of the color. Come back Will!!

Being from Texas myself, I'm seeing details that don't reflect regional accuracy. There are no pine trees in this part of Texas, no "levee" on the river. Several other things that I can't remember right now.

If you’ve listened to books by James Lee Burke before, how does this one compare?

This story is lacking some of the character development and color that makes Burke one of my favorite writers.

What didn’t you like about Alan Sklar’s performance?

Sklar definitely needs some coaching on his regional characterizations. His southern accents all sound identical and aren't true Texas accents; he's giving us more of a generic Deep South flavor. His Hispanic accents sound more Puerto Rican or East LA than South Texas.

The most aggregious effect is when Sklar drops the final "g" off of EVERY word ending in "ing" in his approximation of southern dialect. Mixing in a few dropped "g's" gives us the idea. A constant use of this device is ridiculous and annoying. He does this even in the narration, which should be toned down somewhat to distinguish it from dialogue. Even in first person narration, voice characterization should be played more neutral than when characters speak.

Sklar had difficulty in pacing the text to portray the movement and mood of the scenes. His only method seemed to be in stretching out and elongating words for emphasis. When all words are treated the same way it creates a monotonous, hypnotic effect that distracts from Burke's writing. I found myself having to rewind requently to pick up details in detecting change in scenery or which characters are speaking. Listening to an audio book shouldn't take that much work.

Sklar has a deep, excellent voice. He needs some range and variability. Take notes from Patton.

What character would you cut from Heartwood?

Not really a question of which character is expendible - let's make them ALL more interesting.

Any additional comments?

We're missing out on the outrageous characters, cajun flavor and great narration in this recording.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Always Great

I love James Lee Burke's books, the narrator of this one was not as good as his other narrators. I am from Louisiana and listening to someone try to speak with a southern accent is aggravating. Will Paton does it the best. This book like the rest start off with a bang and keeps you entertained from start to finish. Love James Lee Burke

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator was bland and gave no life to story

What made the experience of listening to Heartwood the most enjoyable?

It was not .... the story.. and the author kept me.. the narration was distracting and horrible.. this Sklar should not narrate any books ever.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Alan Sklar?

Will Patton

Any additional comments?

The narrator ruined James Lee Burke if that is possible.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

An Awful Lot Like Cimarron Rose

Similar plot and character types as in the first Billy Bob Holland book, “Cimarron Rose.” A number of the secondary characters (even those in their bizarre uniqueness) and the roles they played read a bit like retreads from the first book. Mr. Burke doubled down on the villains here too; these are guys you love to hate. Narrator has a great, gravelly voice, is good with accents, and Lucas doesn’t sound inbred like he did in the first one. But his phrasing got on my nerves pretty quick and I had trouble listening past it on and off throughout the book. Even annoyed by the narrator, I’m completely invested in the story. Although it’s told first-person, some scenes are through a narrator’s eyes (and some drift that way), which I’m honestly grateful for, as they really add to the story right from the beginning. As in the first book, everything was highly, poetically, detailed: setting, characters, and action. I recommend this one for listeners who want to take a trip out West (before cell phones). Great balance of story and action. Pacing was good, and the action, narrative, and dialog well-balanced. The angst steadily increases, although enough satisfaction is doled out to to keep it a pleasant, if gritty and intense read. If I’d read this one first, I probably would have liked it more, though I did appreciate the healing and growth I saw in Billy Bob throughout this book and from the first one. Don’t think I’ll listen to any more of these (too similar to each other and I’m a variety hound), but I will give one the Dave Robicheaux series a try, as this author has a style all his own.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Both story and narration fall short

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I would have Will Patton narrate it. Or at least have the narrator find out how to pronounce geographic names.

If you’ve listened to books by James Lee Burke before, how does this one compare?

It was okay. Again, knowing the geography caused distractions. Place names and references to distances made no sense.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

He used almost comic voices for some of the characters. Incorrect pronunciation of place names.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

I'd watch it on demand.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

I love James Lee Burke

The narrator detracted from the story with his drawling voice. He mispronounced many words. The story was fine.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not my favorite

I had read the other Billy Bob books and this narrator made it almost impossible for me. I had trouble telling one character from another. I will not read it again.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 06-02-17

Returned this book

Love James Lee Burke. I've listened to about a dozen of his books and hundreds of audiobooks. The narration on this book is my least favorite ever. Every voice sounds the same and he has an inflection that is annoying making it impossible to follow the story.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

GET A DIFFERENT READER

What didn’t you like about Alan Sklar’s performance?

Sounded like Foghorn Leghorn (the cartoon rooster) trying to do a Mark Twain impression. Ruined the story for me.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

narrator destroys book

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

i tried twice to listen. I changed the word speed. Nothing I could do to make the narrators voice and inflexion bearable. I could not continue. I will never purchase a book with this narrator again. I love johnsons books however.

What didn’t you like about Alan Sklar’s performance?

Awfully slow unreal. Ruins story

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

don't know. Couldn't continue.

Any additional comments?

Johnsons books are my favorites. But this narrator doesn't work.