SF: Harlan County Horrors, edited by Mari Adkins

Over the course of a life hard lived, the minder and the town and the mountain became as one, and no one ever left Harlan alive.

Country noir fits easily with horror.  What is scarier than a long, dark shaft in an abandoned coal mine?  Might our greed for the black stuff cause us to dig too deep?  Might the violence on the surface go beyond the natural into the supernatural?

I was delighted to learn that Apex released a collection of short horror stories set in Harlan County, Kentucky (originally famous for the coal mine labor strife featured in Harlan County, USA and more recently famous as the setting for neo-Western Justified).

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Country Noir: Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke

“That was the thing about second changes—it was impossible to know what was real or what wasn’t; every act of forgiveness was a leap of faith.”

Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is finally starting to get his life together after the events of Bluebird, Bluebird.  He is back on the job.  If it at a desk, the time home is allowing him to repair his relationship with his wife, and he is doing important work on a federal-state task force building a case against the Aryan Brotherhood.  His drinking is under control.  The only hitch is his no-account mother blackmailing him, but everything really goes to shit when a boy goes missing on the Texas-Louisiana border.

Heaven, My Home is the second book in Locke’s Highway 59 Mystery series.

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SF: Desper Hollow by Elizabeth Massie

Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking about how a crime story fit uneasily into a second-world fantasy shell.  A country noir shell, on the other hand, is an excellent fit for any number of sorts of SF stories.  Including a zombie yarn.  Desper Hollow is just that: a country noir zombie fantasy set deep in the hollers of Virginia.

The framing that opens the book and slow reveals the zombie angle is a little weird and unwieldy, but it builds to an incredibly taut set piece in the final third of the book.

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Country Noir: The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy

The Orchard Keeper is about as powerful a statement on the ethos of Appalachia as can be written in fiction.

McCarthy has been compared favorably to both Faulkner and Melville; the Orchard Keeper is more Faulkner-esque, in contrast to the Border trilogy, which is more Melville-esque.  It is a truly challenging read.  All the payoff is at the end when you sit back and let the entirety of what you just read sink in.

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Country Noir: Like Lions by Brian Panowich

“Like most of the people who lived in the foothills of McFalls County, the dogwood tree did whatever it damn well pleased.”

In Like Lions, the sequel to his sprawling, multigenerational crime drama Bull Mountain, Panowich not only manages to exceed his first work but also to produce new and shocking Burroughs family revelations without undercutting Bull Mountain.

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Country Noir: Bearskin by James McLaughlin

Rick Morton is caretaker and science tech for over seven thousand acres of private nature preserve, a large chunk of which is old-growth forest.  He is also Rice Moore, an ex-con on the run from the Cartel.

Bearskin is gorgeously written but understated.  It’s literary without sacrificing plot.  It’s bloody without being mindless.  It contains a touch of the supernatural (maybe) and a touch of the surreal.  It walks a fine line between the people and the place of the mountains of Virginia.

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Like Lions by Brian Panowich

Like Lions is the sequel to Panowich’s excellent country noir Bull Mountain.  I have a review copy and, let me tell you, Like Lions is even better.  You can find my review of Bull Mountain here.  Keep an eye out for my review of Like Lions on May 1.  Check out the blurb for the multi-generational hillbilly crime drama after the jump.

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Wishful Endings.

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