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
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