The mountains of North Carolina are my favorite country noir setting for the simple reason that they are home, and there is a rich tradition of country noir set in the Ozarks that we can probably credit to Daniel Woodrell, but it is always nice to get the chance to visit someplace new via fiction. The Sweet Goodbye is set in the North Maine Woods in the vast, empty, northernmost reaches of the contiguous states.Continue reading “Country Noir: The Sweet Goodbye by Ron Corbett”
I have been slacking on my country noir reading here lately. I did find the time to finally crack open Tom Franklin’s short story collection Poachers, which includes the title story and nine other works of short fiction country noir. Each is set in South Alabama.Continue reading “Short Fiction: Poachers by Tom Franklin”
Successfully working in the overlap between or among genres is easier said than done, but the potential reward matches the risk. As otherwise formulaic as they are, the Marvel movies make great hay combining the superhero genre with others. There is no dispositive reason country noir can’t be combined with other genres. But, while there are several notable examples of successfully mixing speculative elements into country noir yarns, even obviously adjacent genres like thriller and mystery have rarely been effectively paired with country noir. If you called me up (as an obvious expert on country noir), and asked if you could pair country noir with the drug novel? Absolutely. With the war novel? Sure. With romance? Um, well… But that is exactly what Nico Walker does with Cherry, adapted for release on Apple TV+. He doesn’t just pair a country noir tale with romance—he pairs it was all three give examples.Continue reading “Film: Cherry”
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”
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.Continue reading “Short Review Roundup: Elmore Leonard Edition”
“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.”
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”
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.Continue reading “Country Noir: Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby”
My Father Like a River includes two short stories: the title story and the longer The Trusty. The Trusty was also published in Rash’s short story collection Nothing Gold Can Stay. It’s as good now as it was when I read Nothing Gold Can Stay, but I’m disappointed to see a story I already own and have read. As is usually the case with Rash, both stories take place in the mountains of NC.Continue reading “Country Noir: My Father Like a River by Ron Rash”
It is rare that a book is considerate enough to explain itself in one pithy paragraph. It is ever rarer for it to be appropriate to start a review by quoting the last paragraph of a book. But both are true for The Tilted World.
Continue reading “Country Noir: The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly”
This story is a story with murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, dynamite and deluge. A ruthless husband, a troubled uncle, a dangerous flapper, a loyal partner. A woman, married to the wrong husband, who died a little every day. A man who felt invisible.
But most of all, this is a love story. This is the story of how we became a family.
It is remarkable that it has taken this long to see a novel published by an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. That work, Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, is a good’n’.
Cowney Sequoyah is a young Cherokee man. A club foot has saved him from (or robbed him of, depending on the perspective) service in WWII. The dearth of available labor and the need of somewhere to house foreign dignitaries/prisoners gives him the opportunity for good work outside of the Qualla Boundary on the grounds crew at the Grover Park Inn. An initial carpool there brings him into the orbit of Essie Stamper, a beautiful young Cherokee woman working as a maid at the Grove Park for the summer.Continue reading “Country Noir: Even As We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle”