Country Noir: Hard Cash Valley by Brian Panowich

Brian Panowich returns to McFalls County with Hard Cash Valley.  But don’t expect another entry in the annals of the Burroughs family.  Panowich is moving on with (almost entirely) new characters and a new story.  It is still a very country noir story in a very country noir setting with a very country noir atmosphere.

The main character is Dane Kirby, a former arson investigator for the fire department and sheriff in the next county over relegated to a desk job with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  He is damaged goods—broken by personal tragedy and in poor health—but the FBI pulls him into the investigation of a brutal murder after a simple plan gone wrong.  The killing was done in Florida, but it has ties to a cockfighting tournament held in McFalls County.  One man is dead, but his 11-year-old brother is still out there.

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Fiction: Fields of Fire by Jim Webb

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War measuring from the fall of Saigon.  Remarkably, the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. passed the death toll from the Vietnam War (58,220 by one count) this week.  Jim Webb is better known around these parts for his entry in the Hillbilly Studies corpus, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, but he also wrote a very fine war novel that draws heavily from his personal experiences in Vietnam.

Hodges, the primary protagonist in Webb’s Fields of Fire is a young, cocky lieutenant fresh out of the Naval Academy (Webb went to Vietnam as a young, cocky lieutenant fresh out of the Naval Academy).  Goodrich’s experiences when he returns to Harvard are reminiscent of Webb’s experiences at Georgetown University Law Center after he returned from Vietnam, as relayed in Born Fighting.

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Music Monday: RIP John Prine

“When I get to Heaven, I’m going to shake God’s hand,

Thank him for more blessings, than one man can stand.”

Our first country music COVID-19-related death came at the end of last month when Joe Diffie died.  Our second came last week when John Prine died.  The two sat at opposite ends of country music.  Diffie had several radio hits during the pinnacle of country radio in the 90s.  Prine was a quintessential singer/songwriter with roots in the folk scene.

Johnny Cash put him in his songwriting Big 4, along with Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, and Steve Goodman.  He co-write You Never Even Called Me By My Name with Goodman but refused to take a songwriting credit.  He got more attention for writing Angel From Montgomery.

John Prine and Hayes Carll, pic by Eric Frommer

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Whiskey and Book Club ep. 1 with Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer

Between transitioning at work and taking care of a toddler most of the day, and the stress of watching COVID-19 chew through America, I don’t have a lot of time and energy for reading and less for writing blog posts.  The solution?  Avoiding the hard work of writing by recording a YouTube video instead, something that only requires talking and drinking (although the latter is not, as I understand it, strictly required).

Joining me for the inaugural episode of the Whiskey and Book Club ep. 1 is the inestimable Andrea from The Little Red Reviewer.  You might know Andrea as the founder of Vintage Science Fiction Month.

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Music Monday: RIP Joe Diffie

Whelp, we just had our first country music COVID-19-related fatality.  Joe Diffie, 61, died yesterday of complications related to COVID-19.  (And John Prine is in the hospital in critical condition.  Ugh.)  People who don’t know who Joe Diffie is (what kind of asshole brags about not knowing who someone is, let alone after they die?) missed an artist who kind of epitomized 90s country.

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Hillbilly Highways is on Temporary Quasi-Hiatus

Real life commitments already cut my blogging time way, way down even before the shit hit the fan.  Now I am doing everything I already barely had time to do, plus transitioning all my classes online and taking care of no-angel most of the day since we took her out of daycare.

I don’t plan to stop posting entirely, but I also don’t want to possibly go weeks without posting without explanation.  Things are going to get worse before they get better.  I don’t expect my situation to change in a couple weeks, especially since I am in a position to more easily social distance than most people.

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