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Lay Down My Sword And Shield (Hackberry Holland #1)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,850 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
Now available on audio for the first time, the classic novel marking the debut of James Lee Burke’s Hack Holland.

Hackberry Holland, cousin of beloved James Lee Burke hero Billy Bob Holland, made his debut in Lay Down My Sword and Shield, originally published in 1971. Now, fans can learn about Hack’s colorful history, forged against the backdrop of the civil rights era.

Audio CD, 10 pages
Published February 16th 2010 by Simon Schuster Audio (first published September 1st 1971)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Edward Lorn
Nov 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Texans and fans of Hick-Lit
Shelves: audio-books
James Lee Burke has a hard on for all things moist and dripping in this, the first Hackberry Holland book, which was released in the early seventies and would not see a sequel until 2009. And people give George "Ricky Ricardo" Martin the business over how long it takes him to write a sequel! Jaysus!

Anyway, back to all things moist and dripping. Every chapter had at least one instance of something moist or dripping with condensation: glasses, air conditioning units, foreheads, walls, windows, you
Paul Nelson
Hackberry Holland or Hack to his friends is quite possibly one of the most compelling characters I’ve ever come across, I was riveted to everything he said and did, and in the same breath he was also one of the most infuriating. He listens to absolutely no one, does pretty much whatever he likes, he doesn’t just burn the candle at both ends, no he’s way past that, he burns every candle in the candle making factory at both ends, then burns the factory down and if ever a character pissed you off, ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Jun 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of JLB's Hackberry Holland series
Shelves: group-challenge
For fans of JLB and his Holland family series this should be considered. It’s #1 in the order but perhaps not the one to start with for readers unfamiliar with his body of work. The book debuted in 1971 to critical mauling. As James Lee said in an interview "It got pretty worked over. It got hit pretty hard.” So did its author. Eventually it was out of print. His next novel would make the submission rounds for 9 years and be rejected 111 times before it would be published in 1986. That one was
Jan 02, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The worst book I have ever read authored by JLB. The characters, story line, and the book just sucked. For God sake, he spent pages just explaining dust bowls and the endless descriptions of the Texas terrain and his lust for Jack Daniels. He must have been getting paid by the word. I just didn’t expect such from one of my favorite authors. Shame on you JLB! Will be a long time before I select one of your books, if ever.

If you are wondering why I finished this it was only because I was a captiv
William Bentrim
Jun 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lay Down My Sword And Shield by James Lee Burke

This book details the rebirth of Hackberry Holland. He returned from the Korean War, rebuilt his life and now he is recreating himself. The hard panned setting and historic family background contribute to his reassessment of his identity.

Describing the book doesn’t really do justice to the story or it’s fluidity. The author reminds me of Pat Conroy and his poetry like prose. The descriptions of the countryside and people are thorough and beautiful.
John Hood
May 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bound: SunPost Weekly March 4, 2010
Texas Two-Step
James Lee Burke Drinks Deep from the Heart of Texas
John Hood

Hackberry Holland pisses me off. As a matter of fact Hack pisses off a lot people, so I doubt seriously he’s worried about some cat down in Miami. Hell, the Texas mouthpiece probably doesn’t even notice just how pissed off he makes me. Why would he? He generally doesn’t notice how pissed off he makes anybody else either. And that includes his close
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
James Lee Burke can certainly turn a phrase. I enjoy the lyric and often irreverent language, and find Hack Holland (both the old man our Hack admires, and our Hack himself) an altogether pleasant protagonist - which is not the same as being pleasant all the time.
Oct 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge fan of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux books, and I wasn't willing to accept that Burke could make me as interested in another protagonist, but he did!
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hack Holland is a hard-drinking attorney and Congressional candidate who is following other peoples' plans for his life, while battling many ghosts from his years as a Korean War POW.

When a former Army buddy calls him for assistance, it opens doors to a new view of the world: seeing the emerging civil rights struggle, looking at the impoverished migrant workers who pick the crops in Texas and finding a new love and purpose in life.

James Lee Burke writes his usual lyrical style, making you reread
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio, fiction, read-2017
First published in 1971, this had the author's usual descriptive and vivid writing along with realistic characterizations. I really enjoyed the audio version which was ably narrated by Will Patton.
Kathleen Hagen
Lay Down My Sword and Shield, by James Lee Burke, narrated by Will Patton, produced by Simon and Schuster Audio, downloaded from

Again, this is read by Will Patton who could read the phone book for me. It is a precursor to Burke’s most recent book, “Raingods”. This book preceded it by about 20 years, and I wish I had read it first. I would have understood the main character, Hackberry Holland, better if I had.
Publisher’s note:
The hero of James Lee Burke's recent best-seller Rain Gods
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: emotional-drama
What a fantastic read. I did not want this book to end. The richness of the prose., and the dialogue. All enhanced by the astounding voice of Will Patton. Patton totally captured the era and region and enmeshed one totally in the story. The way he did the Senator's lisp was brilliant. Burke reels you in immediately. Before you know it you're eagerly awaiting the next sentence. He plunges us into the life of hard drinking ex POW and southern lawyer extraordinaire Hackberry Holland. Hack's wife an ...more
Andrew Smith
Written in 1971, this is one of JLB’s earliest works. It’s a precursor to two of his very recent novels – Rain Gods and Feast Day of Fools – and it follows the fortunes of Hackberry Holland, a young Texas lawyer who is standing as a candidate for a congressional seat. As always with Burke, the lead character is a deeply flawed: a hard drinker plagued by visions of his capture by Chinese during the Korean War. He is constantly in conflict with those around him as he struggle with his demons and t ...more
Nick Smith
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
While I think Burke is a good writer, his flair for local color and scenic detail sometimes gets in the way of his storytelling, and this is a great example of that. It's basically the story of a bastard drunk who doesn't care for anyone else's rules yet somehow has a connection to "the little guy" and wants to fight for their civil rights. But barely anything actually happens in this book; other than lovely descriptions of people and places, there's not a lot to recommend. If it had been 150 pa ...more
Linda Rowland
Early writing that shows his potential but seems to be reaching. Really wanted to read it before the others in the series and not sorry I did. There is a big time gap between this and the next book which I am starting now. I truly expect the writing to have grown to what I expect in a JLB book.
If this had been my first JLB it may have been the last.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Lee Burke is one of best writers of our times. He is one of the few writers whose books I will purchase in hard cover because I can't wait for the paperback version to come out.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
der Auftakt einer Reihe sollte vor den Fortsetzungen erscheinen. Das hätte dem Buch gut kennt man quasi den Ausgang der Geschichte schon.
Morris Graham
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hack Holland is a man whose grandfather and father cast long shadows. His grandad Hackberry Holland was the one who arrested and sent John Wesley Harden to prison after knocking him off a horse with a shot to the head with a rifle stock. His father was a politician.

Even with an illustrious grandfather, when Hack joined the Navy, he went as a Navy corpsman (medic) assigned to a marine detachment fighting the North Koreans. His position is overrun, and the survivors are transported to a Chinese PO
Kathy Davie
First in the Hackberry Holland series revolving around an alcoholic lawyer trying to find himself after his release from a Korean POW camp while trying to live up to his family legend.

My Take
Keep in mind that Burke wrote this in 1971 at the end of the Vietnam War.

Burke spends most of the book setting Hack up for his transformation. Steeping us in his degeneracy---the alcohol and whoring. The engrained expectancy of his social class. A shallow peek in the cesspool of politics and campaigning.

Wayne Zurl
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lay Down My Sword and Shield by James Lee Burke

We’ve read about Hackberry Holland the Texas Sheriff a few times, but this is Burke’s third novel, and Hack’s first appearance as a hard drinking womanizing defense attorney. All the back-story is here: His family history, his time as a POW in the Korean War, The life of debauchery Hack mentions in later novels, and the crux of this story, his time as attorney and activist for the farm workers union and potential Democratic Congressman.

For the firs
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, legal
#1 in the Hackberry Holland series. This 1971 novel is Burke's third work and his first with a recurring character - although Hackberry Holland would not recur until 38 years later, with Rain Gods (2009). Hack is the scion of a political Texas family, a lawyer and a candidate for Congress. He is also struggling with an unloving marraige, recurring nightmares of his time as a Korean P.O.W. and too many bottles of Jack Daniels (the struggle with alcohol being a theme repeated by Burke through the ...more
Always Pink
Jul 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
As a rule I do not like hardboiled crime novels or thrillers and I do not find overly macho books fun to read. But somehow James Lee Burke is the exeption to the rule. His stories appeal to me, maybe they reach the male side of me, connect to the man I would have been if genetic chance hadn't created me a woman, I don't know. I always thoroughly enjoy his hard-as-nails heroes, their whiskey-fuelled swagger and their tough lingo, constantly subliminaly messaging alpha-maleness and the abilty to d ...more
Prima Seadiva
audiobook read by Will Patton who is perfect for Burke's writing.
Written in 1971
Though I had read 2 other Hack Holland books it was a while ago and took me a while to connect to this back story and realize that.
It does give a vivid picture of the torments the main character goes through and tries to avoid by drinking, drinking and more drinking, the main pastime of almost everyone in this particular book. I almost had a hangover just reading about it.
The section about his POW captivity is prett
James Sorensen
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book in the Hackberry Holland series. Hack is tired of the way his life is going. He is being pushed to run for Congress, his brother is after him constantly to stop his drinking and work harder at their law firm and his marriage is all but non-existent. Married to a socialite who is only interested in power and prestige, who looks down on those beneath her social class. When a war buddy is in need Hack goes South to try and keep him out of prison. During this fight Hack finds a new re ...more
Jun 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this after I had read Rain Gods. It is the beginning of Hack's adulthood and his rejection of success and corruption that he must embrace in spite of his awareness that he is a fallen and prone to error man. Read with Rain Gods, this book is similar to Henry V, which ends with a cautionary during the gorgeous ceremony at the end of the play. Things erode and fall apart and we deteriorate with our world. If our souls follow our bodies, then what?
Ellen Gemmill
This book got better the more I got into it. I actually read it because I had read another book by the same author, The Glass Rainbow, which I liked better. I certainly got an education on the plight of migrant and farm workers, even though I lived through the strikes lead by Cesar Chavez. A good story with a message about social morality and responsibility.
Apr 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He's my favorite author. Read a Burke book and your in a dark theater by yourself surrounded and engulfed by his images. I've read them all but can only do so once every 3-4 months because in the end they are their message about the human condition is not hopeful.
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
James Lee Burke may be one of my favorite authors for several reasons but primarily for his prose, in-depth characters and interesting plot lines. His prose takes you deep within the setting where you actually can feel the air's temperature and picture, in your minds eye, the surroundings. His characters are multi-faceted with emotional and psychological (sometimes physical) baggage and scars. In this book, I particularly found the interacting plot-line between his experiences as a POW in a Chin ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
Hackberry Holland is a pretty compelling character. I was riveted to everything he said and did,. He listens to absolutely no one, does pretty much whatever he likes, and is the kind of guy we all want to be. He gives up a political career for a woman and an alcohol filled, liberal life. Loyal to his friends, he takes the case of an Army buddy and the story is off and running. I enjoyed it more than many from this author.
Joyce  Adams
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
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James Lee Burke is an American author best known for his mysteries, particularly the Dave Robicheaux series. He has twice received the Edgar Award for Best Novel, for Black Cherry Blues in 1990 and Cimarron Rose in 1998.

Burke was born in Houston, Texas, but grew up on the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. He attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Missouri, receiving
More about James Lee Burke...

Other Books in the Series

Hackberry Holland (4 books)
  • Rain Gods (Hackberry Holland, #2)
  • Feast Day of Fools (Hackberry Holland, #3)
  • House of the Rising Sun (Hackberry Holland, #4)
“As a southerner I had been brought up to believe that through conditioning and experience you could accept with some measure of tranquility any of the flaws in the human situation. But death is one flaw that always lands like a fist in the center of the forehead. No matter how many times you see it, or smell its gray rotting odor, or come close to buying it yourself, each time is always like the first. No amount of earlier experience prepares you for it, and after it happens the world is somehow unfairly diminished and bent out of shape.” 0 likes
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