Country Noir: The Line That Held Us by David Joy

Like most books, The Line That Held Us is a book about choices.  The choice that Darl makes to hunt on private land while the owner is out of town.  The choice he makes to shoot at what he thinks is a feral hog.  The choice he makes to pull his best friend Calvin into things when he discovers that it was a person, not a hog, he shot.  The choices that man’s brother, Dwayne, makes in reaction to his brother’s killing.

David Joy writes in Ron Rash’s territory—The Line That Held Us is set in Jackson County, North Carolina; Rash is a professor at a school in Jackson County—so the comparison is inevitable.  Joy writes brilliantly, and I was almost ready to proclaim that he has exceeded Rash early in the book, but I was ultimately let down a bit.

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Fiction: Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton

Is the evil done to us irreparable?  Are we doomed to pay it forward?

Last Girl Gone is an assured debut, as much a thriller as a mystery (certainly effective as the former).  Young girls are starting to go missing in the small town of Hillsborough, North Carolina—just like they did decades before—and disgraced journalist Laura Chambers sees her way back out of her hometown.

Historic Occoneechee Speedway – not my pic

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Books by J.G. Hetherton, David Joy, and Stephen Markley

These three recently released books are deep in the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse.  Last Girl Gone is set in my home state of North Carolina, a thriller featuring a journalist who returns to the small town she grew up in.  David Joy is walking in the mighty footprints left by Ron Rash, and The Line That Held Us is a tale about one deadly accident setting off a cycle of violence set in my old stomping grounds in the NC mountains.  Ohio is set in, well, Ohio, but I’m a Midwesterner now, and I can’t resist a book that gets compared favorably to Friday Night Lights.

I’ve been crazy busy, but a busy travel month has finally given me some reading time.  I finished Last Girl Gone by J.G. Hetherton and The Line That Held Us by David Joy during my last two trips.  I started Ohio by Stephen Markley on my last trip and should finish it on my next one.  I’m a little iffy on Ohio right now, but Last Girl Gone and The Line That Held Us are solid 4-star books.

You can expect reviews of all three books over the next month or so.  All are out now in one format or another and available at Amazon (click on the cover pics for an affiliate link).

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

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Country Noir: The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living by Martin Clark

As an expert on the many aspects of mobile home living, I thought this book would be right up my alley.  And while it sadly neglects the many aspects of singlewide living, focusing on its more urbane brother, the doublewide, I was not disappointed.

In this masterful debut, Martin Clark proves to be the heir apparent of great Southern raconteurs and the envy of more seasoned novelists as he takes us on a frantic tour of the modern south.

Hung over, beaten by the unforgiving sun, bitter at his estranged wife, and dreading the day’s docket of petty criminal cases, Judge Evers Wheeling is in need of something on the morning he’s accosted by Ruth Esther English. Ruth Esther’s strange story certainly is something, and Judge Wheeling finds himself in uncharted territory. Reluctantly agreeing to help Ruth Esther retrieve some stolen money, he recruits his pot-addled brother and a band of merry hangers-on for the big adventure. Raucous road trips, infidelity, suspected killers, winning Lotto tickets, drunken philosophical rants, and at least one naked woman tied to a road sign ensue in The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, one part legal thriller, one part murder mystery, and all parts all wild.

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Short Fiction: Chemistry and Other Stories by Ron Rash

13 Short Stories That Peer into the Soul of Southern Appalachia.

Ron Rash writes about my native soil—western North Carolina—and Lord does he write them well.  The Tuckasegee winds through my memories of college like it winds through Cullowhee (Their Ancient, Glittering Eyes).  I grew up hearing stories about a kid from Shelby that was better than Michael Jordan ever was and threw it all away for drugs (Overtime).  Where I grew up, you knew the drug dealers, and you knew their daddies (Deep Gap).

The final question of Blackberries in June has kept me up late at nights.  Chemistry, Last Rite, and Cold Harbor all address the (emotional) pain of death from a different perspective.  Chemistry, Last Rite, and Blackberries in June are powerful looks at family.  Not Waving But Drowning and Deep Gap expose the awfulness of that which you care most about slowly drifting form your grasp.  Blackberries in June, Overtime, The Projectionist’s Wife, and Deep Gap show a deep bitterness that runs through a downtrodden people.  Honesty and Pemberton’s wife offer a window into the hatred and contempt with which outsiders view highlanders.  Speckled Trout cuts deep.

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