Lay Down My Sword and Shield : Hackberry Holland

  • by James Lee Burke
  • Narrated by Will Patton
  • Series: Hackberry Holland
  • 8 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The Publisher's Summary is Anemic

The Publisher's summary reads like a romance novel when this is is classic James Lee Burke: Intellent story telling based on deep introspection and human nature. Dark poetry in hot, steamy Texas in the time when "Negro" was considered polite language and Hispanics were ignored. A preclude to Rain Gods, it explains many character mysteries and painful memories. Will Patton, the narrator, layers language with meaning and tonality like silk over callouses.
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- Cat F. "I read it as if I wrote it."


The title of this review expresses my ambivalence between the quality of the writing and story telling, and my intense dislike of the main character. The four star rating is largely homage to Burke's writing, and his bringing to life the farm worker's struggle for fair treatment. It's also in appreciation of the light he casts on the type of people who succeed in politics, and why.

There are scenes between Hack and Veresa that are drawn with a surgeon's scalpel, and you can almost feel the blood oozing out of your own pores. Similarly, Hack's brother's complaints have the ring of truth and I longed for him to throw Hack out on his drunk butt.

Hack's political career is drawn from the headlines. The lurid details of his drunken escapades can be found in the real reports of politicians' misdeeds, sorry to say.

Hackberry Holland is an abhorrent character. He's a selfish, self-absorbed, egotistical, alcoholic who blames all of his problems on other people. In many ways, he's stereotyped, as are the women with whom he interacts.

He falls into the farm workers struggle not out of principle, but in an alcoholic binge. I would have had more respect for him had he had some principle about it.

Yes, he was a POW in a Chinese camp and his treatment there defies comprehension. Burke describes it extensively, and in great detail. Too much is given over to this, so much so that it felt like mere sensationalism, a disappointment from a writer of Burke's ability.

Will Patton does his usual excellent job narrating the book.

Although overall I enjoyed the book, I'm not sure I'll read any more books featuring Hackberry Holland.
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- Eva Gannon

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-16-2010
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio