A sequel to the Hackberry Holland trio (Feast Day of Fools, 2011, etc.) that’s also an unofficial prequel to most of Burke’s other 32 novels.
Weldon Holland’s fate was sealed the day four strangers drove onto his grandfather Hackberry’s ranch and parked there as if they owned the place. After the ex–Texas Ranger had words with them, they drove off at their leisure, but not before Weldon recognized two of them as Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and fell hopelessly in love with Bonnie. The memory of her haunts him throughout his World War II service, and the echo of her he sees in camp survivor Rosita Lowenstein leads him to carry her first to the altar and then back to Texas. The happy couple is soon followed home by Weldon’s wartime buddy Hershel Pine, who’s convinced he has second sight about some things, like the application of Nazi technology to the oil pipelines he’s determined to build and his gift for picking gushers. The two hit up Weldon’s uncle Cody for a loan and go into business, and although Hershel overrates his gifts in some ways, he’s spot-on about enough to make the Dixie Belle Pipeline Company a success that will attract the attention of predatory investor Roy Wiseheart, who smilingly assures Weldon, “We’re more alike than you think,” and tempt Hershel’s wife, Linda Gail, to dreams of Hollywood and adultery. The postwar setting allows Burke to dramatize the uncertain early days of big oil, but the characters, their volcanic conflicts and their implacable demons will be instantly recognizable to Burke’s many fans.
Instead of focusing on the wages of long-ago sin, as he generally does, Burke (Light of the World, 2013) shows the sins actually being committed over several fraught years in the nation’s history. The result is a new spaciousness married to his fine-tuned sense of retribution.