Hillbilly Noir

As a fan of author Daniel Woodrell ("Winter's Bone", "The Outlaw Album"), I have been on the lookout for other hillbilly noir. Not surprisingly, this genre is growing. Recently, I read Donald Ray Pollack's "The Devil All the Time," a novel centered on a strange cast of characters: a young couple who travel the country murdering hitchhikers, a faux-preacher and his side-kick, and a teen who leaves home after the death of his parents. This novel weaves a bizarre and violent tale that winds its way back to the Ohio valley where many of the characters were born. Not for the faint of heart, this book is dark and twisted.

A book of short stories, "Crimes in Southern Indiana" by Frank Bill tells the stories of rural Indiana rednecks who peddle dope, murder and maim in the name of family pride, and relish a good dog fight. The stories are beautifully written and wring out the truest essence of their characters. I am eagerly anticipating Frank Bill's next book, "Donnybrook: A Novel," due out in March.  

Finally, there is a softer, yet still vibrant novel by T.J. Forrester, "Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail." This book follows several characters as they make their way north on the Appalachian Trail: a man running away from his drug-addled past, a young woman escaping her fiancé and confronting her issue with heights (she's definitely not afraid of heights), and a pseudo-Indian who stereotypically drinks too much. These three confront their fears, their demons, and their pasts as they meander northward. Their central story is made fuller with the characters that reside near the trail and depend on it for commerce and connectedness.

--Keir, Cliff Cave Branch


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