And yes, I'm talking about the U.S. Deep South. Anybody got any rec's for books by Southern writers? I like the darker stuff - noir, hard-boiled, y'know, dark! I've already read a ton of JLB, but know I'm missing out on a ton of other writers. Help!
My response yesterday was too short. Here is a summary for A Feast of Snakes. Via. It really is one of the most darkest, full of despair novels ever.
Crews, a contemporary Southern gothic writer, has a gift for creating grotesque, violent characters embroiled in bizarre situations in the rural south. Though it is terrific prose and is replete with symbolism, A Feast of Snakes is not exactly uplifting. One of the author's primary influences in writing is Graham Greene, if that gives you any idea how cheerful his work is.
The setting is Mystic, Georgia. Joe Lon Mackey lives in a double-wide trailer with his wife and children. Joe Lon, an angry, depressed individual, treats his wife Elfie horribly and feels nothing but apathy towards everything in his life. He had been the star running back in high school but now has no ambition. Joe Lon runs a liquor store with his father Big Joe-- a disturbing redneck who enjoys the sick sport of dogfighting in his spare time. They are both friends with the peg-legged Sheriff Buddy Matlow, who drinks moonshine and enjoys raping women in his spare time.
The annual Rattlesnake Roundup, a tradition in Mystic where snake hunters and townfolk gather to celebrate by killing and eating a large collection of snakes, is coming up and Joe Lon is in charge. Mystic residents who participate go hunting snakes before the big day and bring their offerings to Joe Lon, hoping to garner an award for achievements like having the longest snake or for catching the most snakes.
An assortment of twisted characters collect snakes throughout the course of the novel, which is also packed with symbolism and imagery utilizing the cold-blooded animal. Joe Lon attempts unsuccessfully to mollify the pain within him by cheating on his wife with a former lover, but finding no joy in being with her or anyone else, he eventually unleashes his rage in a shocking display of violence.
Joe Lon and the other characters in Mystic are all bereft of something they desperately need: love. This is a story that focuses on the lost, frustrated people resulting from the lack of it. Joe Lon, Big Joe, and Buddy Matlow embody the anguish of those without love. Cold-blooded like snakes, they release their wrath on those around them, primarily upon the women in their lives, who in turn impose violence and possess snake-like qualities. Hard Candy is a woman who claims she's " pretty as a snake," for example, and Beeder, Joe Lon's sister, retreats constantly to her room longing to exist in the better worlds displayed on her television-- much like a snake waiting in its hole to strike.
To Colman and Angie,
Pinckney Benedict was my mentor while I was working on my MFA at Hollins University. He's an amazing writer and teacher and he has helped me tremendously with my own writing career. In fact, he got the first shout out on the acknowledgment page of my debut novel. I would suggest his short story collections over Dogs of God actually. Town Smokes, which he remarkably published when he was only 21, and also The Wrecking Yard, are great collections. I'd start with those first.
Also saw Harry Crews and Larry Brown on this forum and like both of them as well. Dirty Work by Larry Brown is one of my favorite books and his best as far as I'm concerned.
How about classic southern writers like William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor? Most of Faulkner's work could be considered mystery/crime in a lot of ways. Light in August is incredible.
I'm brand new to Crime Space and a few minutes ago I plugged my own book on your forum because it is certainly appropriate to what you're looking for Angie. Then I went back to the main page and read the rules on promotion, so I deleted the whole thing and I'm starting over. Sorry about that. Anyway, it's called The Hanging Woods, and I've put the info. on my profile page if you want to take a look. Thanks.
Thanks Angie. I've posted a description of The Hanging Woods on My Page and also in the Author section. But very briefly, since you gave me the okay, it's set in rural Alabama in the mid-70's. It's about three fourteen year old boys who seem normal enough at first--basically overly mischievious boys. But things slowly begin to emerge that they each have their own dark sides. Things turn disturbing after a death occurs and they try covering their tracks and staying a step ahead of the police. Houghton Mifflin is marketing it as To Kill A Mockingbird meets Stand by Me, only much darker. I won't complain with that comparison, and I definitely pay tribute to TKAM and Harper Lee. Like I said, based on what you are looking for, this should be a book you'd really enjoy. Thanks again and I hope you like it, Scott
Larry Brown's posthumous work is called A MIracle of Catfish. I haven't read it, but I also haven't heard great things about it.
As for Pinckney, I know that he's been working on both a novel and a collection of short stories, but I'm not sure when either will be out. He does publish short stories pretty often in various high-end literary magazines. And yes, I just saw the thing about Laura. Take care, Scott
Thanks for the shout out, y'all. I'm coming late to this one, but let me just second the WINTER'S BONE rec. it's amazing. Ed Lynskey also does some great, dark PI fiction set in the rural South. THE BLUE CHEER is pretty damn dark, and way damn good.