SF: Comanche by Brett Riley

Raymond Turner has a problem.  The New Orleans-based private investigator crawled into a bottle when his wife died and has only crawled out with considerable effort and grace on the part of his partner.

The town of Comanche, Texas has a problem.  Over one hundred and thirty-five years ago several townspeople killed the Piney Woods Kid and desecrated his corpse.  Now the ghost of the Piney Woods Kid is exacting his revenge on the descendants of those townspeople, haunting the grounds of the historic depot where his body was dismembered—newly renovated and opened as a diner by the town mayor.

Fortunately, the mayor’s wife is Turner’s sister.  Turner’s chance for redemption is Comanche’s chance for salvation.

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Music Monday: RIP Justin Townes Earle

I wasn’t planning to post today, but I just saw that Justin Townes Earle died.  The news came out yesterday, apparently, but I am not sure exactly when he died.  No cause of death is given, but Justin Townes Earle was about my age, and when men about my age die it is usually of a drug overdose.  He is named for Townes Van Zandt, the singer-songwriter who died young of substance abuse related issues, is the son of Steve Earle, who has had his own substance abuse issues, and has had substance abuse issues in the past.

Justin Towns Earle performs for a worldwide audience on GQ.com

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Country Noir: When These Mountains Burn by David Joy

When These Mountains Burn may be David Joy’s best novel yet.  Fires are burning across the mountains of North Carolina in late 2016, and wildfire smoke casts a heavy pall over even the unburned areas.  More figurative fires are burning as well, with an equally heavy pall cast by the opioid epidemic.  Those figurative fires will touch Ray, a mountain of a man, a retired forester, and the father of an addict, and Denny Rattler, an addict himself, a petty thief, and a Cherokee.

(If you heard about these fires on the news, and you probably didn’t, it was likely only when they hit Gatlinburg.)

“The way these mountains have been burning, I knew there was some kind of end coming.  I knew it.  I just couldn’t see it.  I come here to kill you.”

The use of the fires as a literary device is both obvious and effective.  Coyotes provide a minor literary device, with Ray ruminating that “he’d watched mountain people and culture be damn near extirpated over the course of a few decades, while those dogs had been persecuted for a century and thrived.”

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Music Monday: My Hometown by Charlie Robison

You guys.  I did a thing.  I just can’t seem to set still for more’na few years without my feet itching for those hillbilly highways.  Although this last trip might be for good.

Sort of.  I took a job up in the mountains I call home, but I gotta start work long before I can sell the house and get the family moved down, so I’m gonna be heading up and down those hillbilly highways between the Rust Belt and Appalachia every couple weeks for a spell.

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Country Noir: In the Valley by Ron Rash

Ron Rash is a master of the short story, but a reader’s conclusion on In the Valley will depend on the title story, a novella set in the world of and featuring the title character from Serena that takes up half the volume.

I am not the target audience, to the extent it is possible for me to not be the target audience for a Rash work.  Serena remains my least favorite Rash novel, and any attempt at another story featuring Serena is handicapped by the novel telling the end of her story.  Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised by In the Valley, and it is well accompanied by the preceding stories.

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Music Monday: Pontoon Boat by Sunny Ledfurd

My 20s weren’t a great time in a lot of ways, but I had a lot of great times on a pontoon boat on Lake Norman.  There was a period where we were out on the lake almost every summer weekend.

Naturally I jumped at a chance to go out on the boat last weekend.  I do have to say that going on the boat in your late 30s with a toddler is a very different experience.  (I would strongly encourage anyone not to go out on a boat alone with a 4-year-old.)

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Music Monday: Long Haired Country Boy by The Charlie Daniels Band (RIP Charlie Daniels)

I wasn’t going to do a Music Monday post this week, but I just heard Charlie Daniels died.  It continues to be a hell of a year.  It would be enough to make a man get stoned in the morning and get drunk in the afternoon if he didn’t work for a living.

At least I can say I had the opportunity to see Charlie Daniels live.  One of the best concerts I have ever been to.  Daniels sawed on a fiddle so hot he would blow through a bow in a few songs.  He’d flourish an old bow with broken horse-hairs sticking out all over the place and someone would run up from stage right with a fresh one.

The last time I talked about seeing Charlie Daniels live I was at this place.

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Music Monday: Lightning on the Mountain by Kyle Nix

Art in downtown Waynesville

Truly, everything started going to shit when the Turnpike Troubadours broke up.  After a period to sulk, I’ve been digging back into their discography.  Evan Felker may be on the DL, but the rest of the Troubadours are alive and kicking and ready to work.  Which is how we got an album from all the Troubadours not named Felker under the name of Turnpike fiddler Kyle Nix.  Lightning on the Mountain came out on Friday.  I haven’t had as much time to dig into it as I would have liked, and it isn’t the Turnpike Troubadours, but I dig it.

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Music Monday: The Housefire by the Turnpike Troubadours

Saving Country Music’s greatest country albums of the decade post back in February had four Turnpike Troubadours albums in the top 20.  Yeah, they really were that good.  I can’t believe I have featured the Turnpike Troubadours only once in these pages.  After a long hiatus spurred by their breakup, I have been back digging into their catalog.  One song I keep coming back to is The Housefire.

My sister died in a house fire.  But this isn’t a post about that.  This is a post about my brother.

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Oddments: “Bye Y’all”

Our two-year-old no-angel hit an important developmental milestone the other day—she said y’all for the first time.  She said “bye y’all” to her grandparents (after hanging up on them, but we will keep working on that).

My entire childhood I was told by teachers that y’all is ungrammatical, that its use would mark me as ignorant.  Both assertions were bullshit.

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