Fiction: The Son by Philipp Meyer

The Son is less one long book than three ones. The book covers four generations of a Texas family: a frontiersman turned cattle baron captured by the Comanche, his titular son, and his great-granddaughter, an heiress turned oil baroness. The problem is that it is one very, very good book and a couple mediocre ones.

The first story, about the “Colonel” as he’s referred to elsewhere, is the best and can’t be treated as anything other than the main story. His family settled on the frontier of Texas in the 1800s, and he was captured by Comanche is a raid. He starts as a slave and becomes a Comanche warrior. Meyer’s research on the Comanche shows. If only he could have done more research on the rest of the story.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Son by Philipp Meyer”

Music Monday: House and 90 Acres by Chris Knight

I was down in Oklahoma this past weekend.  It being my first time there, I was excited to check out some Red Dirt.  Checked the local venues, didn’t see much in the way of the regular Red Dirt crowd, but I did see that Chris Knight would be in town.  I am always down to see Chris again, even if it is for the seventh time in the fourth different state (once in NC, twice in Virginia, three times in Texas, and now once in Oklahoma).

Continue reading “Music Monday: House and 90 Acres by Chris Knight”

Oddments: A Dang Fine Coat

I turned 38 earlier this month.  An unremarkable age, on the whole, although it does have one bit of significance.  When I graduated high school I set out into the world; when I turned 19 I asked for a man’s coat.  My mom bought me a Carhartt duck coat[1] from an outlet shop in BFE connected to a gas station.  I still have that coat, which means that I have now owned it for half of my life.

That Carhartt coat has been with me through a lot.  I drank many a beer by many a fire on many a cold mountain night wearing that coat.  It would get me through two winters in Chicago and serve me well on my return to the Rust Belt (I did add a heavier Carhartt duck coat).  It is still holding strong 19 years later.  It is a little worse for wear, but then I am too.  There is wear at the end of the sleeves, probably because it is a bit too big.  And it is a little faded.  But I think it might have another 19 years in it.

[1] I picked up the term from Cormac McCarthy’s great Border trilogy.

Oddments: On Not Being Scots-Irish

Scots-Irish is almost synonymous with hillbilly in the US.  Scots migrated first from Scotland to Ulster (not Northern Ireland), then to the US, often entering through Philadelphia, walking west until they hit properly tilted country, then working their way down the Appalachian Mountains (at the time America’s “backcountry”).  But many Scots immigrants never detoured through Ulster.  More importantly, as David Hackett Fischer points out in Albion’s Seed, a large portion of that immigration wave were from northern England.  They weren’t from Scotland at all.

Continue reading “Oddments: On Not Being Scots-Irish”

Music Monday: Birmingham Jail by Chatham County Line

On September 15, 1963, four Ku Klux Klan members planted dynamite under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  Martin Luther King, Jr. called it “one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.”  The first prosecution didn’t occur until the next decade.  The next two until the next century.  One of the men was never prosecuted.  None received the punishment they deserved, but a more fitting punishment, perhaps, is that their diabolical act helped galvanize the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Continue reading “Music Monday: Birmingham Jail by Chatham County Line”

Country Noir: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

Country noir isn’t quite regional.  Or, rather, it is regional in that it is a subgenre that demands a sense of place.  But it isn’t tied to any particular region.  It does even really need to be set in the country.  You could (and someone really should) write an excellent country noir set in the former hillbilly enclave in Uptown Chicago.  That being said, the western half of North Carolina has provided the setting for a truly disproportionate number of quality country noir tales.  Ron Rash is the dean of the country noir oeuvre (fight me, Daniel Woodrell fans), but ably following in his footsteps are David Joy and Wiley Cash.

This Dark Road to Mercy is my first Wiley Cash novel (he has written three).  I found it a flawed work, but a thoroughly enjoyable one nonetheless and one that shows frequent flashes of brilliance.

Continue reading “Country Noir: This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash”