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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.
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.
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
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 morePublished on Jan. 22 2001 by Old Fisherman
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 morePublished on Sept. 6 2000 by S. Hall
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 morePublished on Aug. 31 2000 by Robert Dean Field, Jr.
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
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 morePublished on Aug. 19 2000 by Ms. Nancy F. Jones
"Heartwood" takes its title from a tree which grows outward, and as it grows, the core becomes stronger. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2000 by Judith Lindenau
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 morePublished on Aug. 12 2000 by Wayne C. Rogers
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 morePublished on Aug. 4 2000 by J. Keenley