Billy Bob Holland & The Holland Family Saga

Created by James Lee Burke

Writer James Lee Burke, best known for Cajun almost-P.I. Dave Robicheaux cracked open a new series with Deaf Smith, Texas attorney BILLY BOB HOLLAND. Like his more famous creation, Billy Bob is a troubled gent, haunted by the violence of his ancestors (a few of whom have starred in books of their own — see below), which he fears may be his true legacy, and his own troubled past. In fact, the ghost of L.Q. Navarro, the best friend he accidentally killed, continues to pop up and discuss the days events and Billy Bob’s ongoing guilt.

“I had been a street cop, a Texas Ranger, a federal prosecutor, and now I was a smalltown defense lawyer who didn’t defend drug trafficers, as if that restriction gave a nobility to my practice that other attorneys didn’t posess.”

Aiding and abetting the brooding Billy Bob in his cases is his pal, neighbour and private investigator Temple Carol, who admits to having a spot in her heart for her employer. Like the Robicheaux series, the lyrical descriptive touch of Burke brings the setting, in this case West Texas, to life.

And Burke has brought that same unflinching and unapologetically poetic eye to Missoula, Montana, where Billy Bob relocates in the third novel, Bitterroot (2001), which saw him moving to west Montana and hanging out a shingle for a new law practice.

Burke’s such a damn good writer and such a pleasure to read than I figure most people would follow him and his characters anywhere. Which is a good thing, because he went on to write several books in what can only be called “The Holland family saga,” an ongoing series set in the early to mid 20th Century, depicting the trials and tribulations of the Holland clan, whose members mostly seem to work in law enforcement and criminal justice.


  • “Burke is a master at setting mood, laying in atmosphere, all with quirky, raunchy dialogue that’s a delight.”
    — Elmore Leonard


  • “I am very grateful for the literary and commercial success of the Robicheaux series, but I believe my three best books are all in the Holland series, and those are House of the Rising SunThe Jealous Kind, and Wayfaring StrangerWayfaring Stranger is my best book. I once told another journalist, ‘I don’t claim that I deserve the Pulitzer Prize, but that book—Wayfaring Stranger—deserves it.’”
    — James Lee Buke (August 2021, Crime-Reads)



  • “Deportees” (Holiday 2019, The Strand, Sheriff Hackberry Holland)


It does get a mite complicated keeping track of all the Hollands, as the author himself admits on his web site, from which this list was taken. “The confusion for some readers is the fact there are two Hackberry Hollands. So I’ll try to clear up what I can.”

  • Son Holland
    Escaped from a Louisiana chain gang in 1835 and fled to Texas and fought at the Battle of San Jacinto for Texasí independence from Mexico.
  • Sam Morgan Holland
    The son of Son Holland. A Confederate soldier, a trail drover, a drunkard, a gunman who killed nine men, and finally a Baptist saddle preacher. He was also the lover of the Cimarron Rose, a beautiful outlaw queen in Indian Territory.
  • Hackberry Holland #1
    A legendary Texas Ranger and frontier lawman, famous for putting the outlaw John Wesley Hardin in jail. Each novel in the Holland Family saga features a descendent of the original Hackberry Holland.
  • Hackberry Holland #2
    Named for his grandfather, he was a Navy corpsman during the Korean war, a POW in a hellish prison in No Name Valley, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, and a sheriff on the Texas-Mexican border.
  • Billy Bob Holland
    The cousin of the younger Hackberry Holland, and the great-grandson of Sam Morgan Holland. A former Texas Ranger and an attorney, currently living in Missoula, Montana.
  • Ismael Holland
    The son of the older Hackberry Holland, and part of General Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico in 1916, as well as a participant in the Battle of the Somme during World War I.
  • Weldon Holland
    The grandson of the first Hackberry Holland, Was in the Ardennes during World War II. He narrates Wayfaring Stranger (2014).
  • Aaron Holland Broussard
    Another grandson of the first Hackberry Holland. A high school junior, Aaron narrates the coming-of-age novel The Jealous Kind (2016), which completes a trilogy that also includes Wayfaring Stranger (2014) and House of the Rising Sun (2015). By 2021’s Another Kind of Eden, it’s the early sixties, and Aaron’s a would-be novelist hopping boxcars, and wandering into trouble in Denver.


  • Jesus Out to Sea (2007) Buy this book Buy the audio Kindle it!
    A moving and powerful collection of non-crime short stories. But if you enjoy Robicheaux or Holland, there’s much here to enjoy.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

One thought on “Billy Bob Holland & The Holland Family Saga

  1. Excellent!
    Burke is the American roman noir writer that upsets me. Yhe House of the Rising Sun, on of his lasts is an uncredible masterpiece!

    Roger Martin, from France

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