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.
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Not JLB's best, narrator needs coaching
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.
This story is lacking some of the character development and color that makes Burke one of my favorite writers.
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.
Not really a question of which character is expendible - let's make them ALL more interesting.
We're missing out on the outrageous characters, cajun flavor and great narration in this recording.