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Heartwood [Mass Market Paperback]

James Lee Burke
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 11 2000 Billy Bob Boy Howdy
A brilliantly layered novel of crime, character, and place from the two-time Edgar Award winner, Gold Dagger Award winner, and New York Times bestselling author of  Sunset Limited.

Few writers in America today combine James Lee Burke's lush prose, crackling story lines, and tremendous sense of history and landscape.  In Cimmaron 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 only 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.


From the Hardcover edition.

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From Amazon

Whether he's writing about the Louisiana Bayou Country (in his Dave Robicheaux books) or the Texas hill towns around Austin (in his series about former Texas ranger Billy Bob Holland), James Lee Burke has deep roots in the American soil that link him to some of the great adventure writers of the past such as Jack London and Mark Twain. Like them, Burke writes novels illustrating how failure shapes a man much more than success does.

Central to Burke's second Billy Bob novel (Cimarron Rose was his first) is Wilbur Pickett. Wilbur had a brief moment of glory as a rodeo cowboy before sliding into a downward cycle of luckless enterprises. He ends up laboring for a wealthy family, the Dietrichs, in the Texas town of Deaf Smith. The Dietrichs accuse Wilbur of stealing some bearer bonds, and Billy Bob--now a defense attorney--reluctantly take his case. He is hesitant (because he idolizes Peggy Jean Dietrich), and for good reason: Billy Bob discovers that her husband Earl may be involved in shady, even violent, business practices.

Other ghosts from the past also haunt Billy Bob: he accidentally killed his former partner on a drug raid in Mexico and still hears his voice. And then there's Holland's illegitimate son Lucas, who is growing up with problems of his own. The weight of all this back-story might overwhelm a lesser writer, but Burke manages to make it seem as natural as the soft wind that stirs the tumbleweed in the town of Deaf Smith. --Dick Adler --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Burke's newer series hero, Billy Bob Holland (Cimarron Rose, 1997), could have been separated at birth from Burke's long-time protagonist, ex-New Orleans cop Dave Robicheaux. Although Holland is a lawyer in the rolling hill country north of Austin, Tex., he shares Robicheaux's sensibilities: he's brutally honest, haunted by his past, kind to children, protective of the underdog, a lover of the beautiful country in which he lives. Most of Burke's villains are arrogant millionaires; here, the dark heart belongs to Earl Deitrich from Houston, who spread his money around the town of Deaf Smith and married the prettiest girl, Peggy Jean Murphy, Holland's high-school sweetheart. Deitrich's pervasive evil extends from threatening Kippy Jo and Wilbur Pickett into ceding him the oil-rich Wyoming property Kippy Jo inherited from her grandfather, to arranging the false arrest of a business victim, to arson and murder in an alliance with a San Antonio Chicano gang. Meanwhile, Deitrich's insolent son Jeff elopes with the sister of the gang's leader; their breakup places Holland's own, illegitimate son in peril. Despite a circuitous, often confusing plot, the novel compels for its lush portrayal of exquisite countryside; its beautifully composed, mood-setting scenes that pace the action; and the leisurely introductions that give dimension to the many eccentric characters. At one point, a Deitrich victim sums up a consistent Burke theme: "Law punishes a poor man. Rich man don't have to account." Holland agrees, but succeeds in turning the tables in this rewarding novel. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.) FYI: Cimarron Rose won the 1997 Edgar Award for Best Novel.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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IT WOULD BE EASY to say we resented Earl Deitrich because he was rich. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I See A Movie Franchise Coming... July 23 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
...Billy Bob Holland reminds me of the southern Sheriff played by Bill Paxton in "One False Move" or Chris Cooper as the Texas Ranger in "Lone Star". Or Gary Cooper in those 40's/50's westerns.
'Course, in Lee Burke's Texas, murders and the overall evil men do take on quite a different flavor. *Quite* a different flavor. A Latin gang member is murdered by a lethal drug which has been punched in his face during a so called friendly boxing spar. A wildcatter initally accused of taking bearer bonds--Billy Bob's client--finds his mother's body exhumed and in his pick-up truck out in a dark and dreary field; this is a threat from Big Earl Dietrich to comply with some kind of land development deal with a promise of big resources...he wants IN, but Deitrich would rather just muscle his way in. The wildcatter is married to a blind Indian spiritlifter, who murders an intruder to her home so efficiently and thoroughly it seems like it was done in a mode other than self defense. The Big guy's son seems to have some scandalous problems with his sexuality and Billy Bob has somehow gotten a dose of a rare Asian jungle poison. Add to the mix some insane prison escapees, an able assistant, his son Lucas, and a lil fishing buddy and you have quite an intriging stage for mystery.
Billy Bob Holland himself keeps hearing voices, seeing visions inspired by his dead Rangers partner, LQ Navarro. Whoooo-boy! Would this be a wild movie for a director to take on!
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3.0 out of 5 stars San Antonio heat Jan. 26 2003
By Kris
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Billy Bob Holland, attorney, is pitted against an apparently materialistic and immoral "entrepreneur," Earl,who happens to be married to the beautiful woman who deflowered Billy Bob, years prior. Earl's son by a previous liaison, Jeff, is a chip off the old block. Tagging alongside are two Chicano "gang bangers," actually more low riders than gang bangers, Ronnie Cruise (note how he anglicized his name, maybe that's a fad in San Antonio?) and a loco guy named Ramirez who gets boxed to death later in the book. In fact, of these four, only Ronnie remains standing, with Billy Bob, when the final bell rings. There are other women, including Esmeralda Ramirez, who is variously a college student, Jeff's wife, Ronnie's girlfriend, and the girlfriend of Billy Bob's son, not in that order, however. Then there's a corrupt, racist, fat sheriff (what would a Southern town be without one?), and various "white trash" figures who cross back and forth over the criminal line as forces carry them. Well, the result of all this, in my humble opinion, is a three-star book. As others on this website have pointed out, there's a lot to wade through for the action that's delivered, maybe a little too much attention to minor detail. But does this really differ much from Robert Parker describing what his private dick had for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Or from Robert Crais telling us what the sunset in Santa Clarita looked like as the police and FBI surround an upscale single family residence housing three kidnappers? Not really. So, there's something here, but you might have to wade through some of the slower parts, skim it or skip it. Billy Bob's encounter with his deceased crime partner, his ghost, that is, is actually rather interesting, because how often do you get anything even bordering on the metaphysical in this type of fiction? Diximus.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Come on James Lee, This is ridiculous! June 23 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have never written a negative review about a book purchased in Amazon but I am now going to make an exception. The "Billy Bob" series is unbearably overwritten, cliched, and filled with gratitious violence, endless racist references, and chapters that seem always to end with a pompous striving for fine writing. I know Burke can write but these stories are just ridiculous. The female characters are impossibly remote, almost as if they were trapped in a Western novel, the characters speak to each other with mock formality ('sir' is used even when someone is being threatened with emasculation), and about every third chapter one finds a "food" interval: tubs of chicken are devoured, buffalo steaks with blueberry ice cream are washed down with iced tea on the front porch, and for lunch tacos with an iced mug of Lone Star are slopped up at the Mexican cafe on the square. These people must weigh 400 lbs.
It's almost as if Burke said to himself: this is the way to make me 'sum' real money: testosterone threat chapters, followed by by inconclusive encounters with the athletic female private investigator and former corrections officer or with a former high school conquest now married to a rich and corrupt oil man, and then the food feasts followed by riding around the Texas Hill Country on a horse, all three mixed in with random encounters with escaped convicts, cretins borne with severe birth defects, and failed evangelists, all of whom seem to be 'river baptized.'Oh, I forgot the bottomless corruption by knuckle-dragging law enforcement officers. Sprinkled throughout, just for effect,are interludes where Billy Bob, a convert to Catholicism and former Texas Ranger who executed drug mules in Mexico and boasts of it, every now and then drops into church with his youthful sidekick.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Burke at his top form.
Complex, wonderfully written plot again. Characters we feel we are in the scene with. You read Burke because you love each page, not to rush to the end of his novel.
Published on May 29 2001
4.0 out of 5 stars James Lee Burke - good as ever
Billy Bob Holland, ex-Texas Ranger and now a successful lawyer agrees to defend Wibur Pickett who's accused of stealing $300,000 in bearer bonds from rich Earl Deitrich. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2001 by Old Fisherman
3.0 out of 5 stars I'm Sure I've Read this Book Before
If you've never read Burke before, this is a fine start. If you've read Burke before and have grown to love his style (as I have), this is a placeholder at best. Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2000 by S. Hall
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwood, A Review
Read the first book in the series first or you will find yourself slightly distracted, not because this book does not stand strongly on its own, but because the passing references... Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2000 by Robert Dean Field, Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Another beautifully written novel by JLB.
The second Billy Bob Holland story is a wonderful read. This is a series to look forward to.
It is a complex plot, fully resolved containing the atmospheric writing that JLB... Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2000 by nobizinfla
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fine New Series
James Lee Burke looks like a cowboy or a roustabout, but writes like a poet. His love of place is evident in his novels, whether they are set in New Iberia, Lousiana, or Deaf... Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2000 by Ms. Nancy F. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars The heart of the matter....
"Heartwood" takes its title from a tree which grows outward, and as it grows, the core becomes stronger. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2000 by Judith Lindenau
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER WINNER FOR BURKE!
I should have purchased HEARTWOOD last year when it first came out in hardback, but I was so irritated with James Lee Burke for not writing a "Robicheaux" novel that I... Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2000 by Wayne C. Rogers
5.0 out of 5 stars Burke At His Best
James Lee Burke just gets better with each successive novel, whether in the Dave Robicheaux series or this new series, begun in "Cimarron Rose" and continued in... Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2000 by J. Keenley
5.0 out of 5 stars Brillant
Heartwood James Lee Burke Doubleday 1999 ISBN 0385488432 H.C. Mystery
This is the 2nd book centered around Billy Bob Holland. The 1st was Cimarron Rose in 1997. Read more
Published on July 28 2000 by Pamela Stone
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