Music Monday: Better in the Fall by The Steel Woods

It isn’t the college football season, it isn’t the autumnal equinox that marks the beginning of fall.  It is October.  Fall is the best time of the year: football, farm visits with the family, crisp air, leaf season.

Continue reading “Music Monday: Better in the Fall by The Steel Woods”

Film: No Country for Old Men

Any filmmaker seeking to adapt a Cormac McCarthy novel faces the significant problem that a large part of the strength of each is the pure poetry of McCarthy’s prose.  In No Country for Old Men the Coen brothers provide cinematography that serves as a suitable stand-in for the poetry of McCarthy’s prose.  They back that up with a sharp attention to detail.

Continue reading “Film: No Country for Old Men”

Country Noir: Raylan: A Novel by Elmore Leonard

Elmore Leonard has been inordinately successful getting his books adapted to the screen.  Justified, the TV show based on the character Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens from Pronto, Riding the Rap, and the short story Fire in the Hole (the last adapted for the Justified pilot), is as good as any Leonard adaption.  Seeing his characters with such incredible life breathed into him had to have spurred Leonard return to Givens with his novel Raylan (which was to be his last).

Continue reading “Country Noir: Raylan: A Novel by Elmore Leonard”

Short Review Roundup: Elmore Leonard Edition

I have been on a bit of an Elmore Leonard kick here lately.  His work has everything I like about country noir, but in an easily digestible, popcorn style and form.  My gateway to Elmore Leonard was the great Justified (which I still need to buy on blu-ray, rewatch, and blog about extensively).  I was admittedly thrown off by my first Elmore Leonard novel, Raylan.  Raylan suffered from covering ground already covered by the show.  But it really suffered from eastern Kentucky not being Leonard’s turf.  His work is always better in Florida, I think.

Elmore Leonard, Miami Bookfair International, 1989 (Wikimedia Commons)
Continue reading “Short Review Roundup: Elmore Leonard Edition”

Country Noir: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby

“This is who I am.  I can’t change.  I don’t want to, really.  But for once I’m gonna put this devil inside me to good use.”

S.A. Cosby impressed me with Blacktop Wasteland.  He absolutely blew me away with Razorblade Tears.

A killer premise is always a good start.  Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee are plenty different.  Ike is black; Buddy Lee is white.  Ike built a business from the ground up and employs crews of workers; Buddy Lee’s work history is checkered at best.  Ike is a comfortable business and home owner; Buddy Lee lives in a dilapidated single-wide trailer with a window unit that pushes around lukewarm air.  Ike is happily married; Buddy Lee hasn’t been in a serious relationship since his son’s mom left him.  But they have a few things in common too.  Both did time in prison.  Both have ample capacity to deal out violence.  Neither could accept their son’s homosexuality.  Their sons who were married to each other.  Who were just murdered.

To paraphrase Solomon Kane, men will die for that.

Continue reading “Country Noir: Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby”

Fiction: Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell

I didn’t originally plan to write a post on Kill All Your Darlings.  It is positioned as a psychological thriller and set on a college campus.  Hardly the stuff of grit lit or country noir.  But it is set in Kentucky, and Bell leavens the thriller tropes with enough (well-crafted) literariness and inserts enough grit into character backgrounds to slink onto these pages.

Photo of the Western Kentucky campus by Bbadgett
Continue reading “Fiction: Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell”

Music Monday: Juneteenth Edition

The federal government made Juneteenth an official federal holiday on June 17.  My new home already had made it a city holiday last month.  Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 every year, the date in 1865 when a Union general announced the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas.  Texas was the last state in the Confederacy reached by Union troops.  Juneteenth has been around a long time, but celebrations have traditionally centered in African-American communities and in Texas.  That’s right: Juneteenth is another great cultural export of the great state of Texas.

And celebration is the right word.  Juneteenth highlights our (initial) triumph over America’s original sin and the (incomplete) culmination of the founding ideals embodied in the Declaration of Independence.  In that respect, the “independence” in the official name of the federal holiday (the “Juneteenth National Independence Day”) is appropriate.  The American Revolution was fought for independence from both the British and tyranny.  For almost one hundred years, a large chunk of Americans only got one of those.  But it is a day for everyone; we all get to live in a more perfect union, we all get freedom from collective sin.[1]

Photo credit: Bob Simpson
Continue reading “Music Monday: Juneteenth Edition”

Music Monday, Flag Day Edition: Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash

What the morning called for.

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land

Continue reading “Music Monday, Flag Day Edition: Ragged Old Flag by Johnny Cash”

Country Noir: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

When you really love a subgenre, you don’t want to read the same thing over and over again, but you do want to see tweaks and new takes on your cherished tropes.  Blacktop Wasteland falls right square in the country noir subgenre.  It distinguishes itself from the field not just with execution but with a protagonist who is a wheelman (and all the car chases the choice suggests) and African-American.

1971 Plymouth Duster pic by Kevauto
Continue reading “Country Noir: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby”

Nonfiction: Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

Like most people, I have big holes in my knowledge of the world.  Drury and Clavin helped me fill some of those holes with their new biography of Daniel Boone, Blood and Treasure.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Daniel Boone was, and I definitely owned a faux coonskin cap[1] purchased at Chimney Rock (in the olden times when it was privately owned and they still had the hill climb race).  But I’ve never read a book about Boone as an adult, and there is a lot I don’t know about southern Appalachia’s frontier history, even though it is my history.

Drury and Clavin’s approach is perfect for me.  I’m not a big biography reader.  When I do read one, I prefer it devote ample page space to putting a person’s life into historical context.  Drury and Clavin do that—there is an entire chapter devoted to the French and Indian War that elides Boone altogether.  Ample page space given over to Boone’s time in the Yadkin Valley is equally welcomed by me, as a North Carolinian.

Continue reading “Nonfiction: Blood and Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin”