Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lay Down My Sword and Shield-James Lee Burke

Lay Down My Sword and Shield
James Lee Burke
Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), Feb 16 210, $15.00
ISBN: 9781439165454

Hackberry Holland was once a POW for thirty-two months as a guest of the Chinese-North Koreans, but now practices law in DeWitt County, Texas at a time when the Civil Rights movement has the south in an uproar few have seen in decades. His family and friends want Hack to run for Congress, which he agrees to do but he has doubts although his Republican opponent is a drunken racist bully and the Democrats always win in Texas. Besides he has the backing of R.C. Richardson, an oil zillionaire, who he kept out of prison.

However, any political ambition may be in trouble when he visits his war buddy Arturo Gomez, who has been convicted of assault of a Texas Ranger and heading to the state farm. Art tells Hack he was picketing with union organizers when the Rangers jumped them. His attorney is a local state selected lawyer who provided no defense for a Chicano. Now Art needs the relief pitcher to overcome his conviction. Hack comes out of the bullpen to try.

This is a reprint of an enjoyable Civil Rights era thriller that focuses on justice, Texas style. The story line is character driven, but not just by Hack as the ensemble support cast enhances the conflict between Chicanos wanting to organize into a union and the wealthy powerful ready to prevent it using legal chicanery. Fans will enjoy Hack’s moral dilemma as he is caught between two worlds during a period of flux.

Harriet Klausner

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