Alone In A Bitter World

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Savage Country, by Robert Olmstead

Olmstead’s title here says all that’s relevant here, but indulge me in a few details. Michael Coughlin has lost his family and wandered off the white man’s reservation into existential territory. He meets Elizabeth, his brother’s widowed wife, whom the brother has left destitute. There’s a strain of Americana in which it’s sought to make joy from sorrow, wealth from poverty, and Michael and Elizabeth head into the untapped American prairie hopeful of gaining such new life from buffalo hunting. Olmstead offers but a single sentence of awareness concerning the part the couple play in all but sending the American buffalo into extinction, the Native American plains culture along with it. 

Thus there’s little story here. As the pages turn, Olmstead follows suit with the likes of Charles Frazier and his Cold Mountain in allowing the couple and their retinue to experience the prairie expanse, the buffalo butchering, Indian brutality, racism, murder, extreme weather, and the most brutal of robberies. At book’s end, Michael and Elizabeth gain a workable attachment to one another, but lose all else. 

The project of Savage Country is to portray the plains, hence Earth, as indifferent to all life. So indifferent in fact as to not just indulge but encourage life as joyless loss. Of soul. Of material wealth. Of humanity’s connections to one another. 

This book has been lauded in reviews and that’s understandable as long as one wishes to read cynically, without hope of being inspired to anything hopeful, or to refrain from  pointing toward answers to hard questions put to them. Sadly that apparently comprises a significant portion of the American readership. 

My rating: 14 of 20 stars

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The Inevitability of Fate, or Fate Floats

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The North Water, by Ian McGuire

There are numerous stories out there playing on the trope of a self-styled mystic aboard a ship at sea predicting some ominous thing that may or may not come true, and Ian McGuire works that ground as if virgin soil. Patrick Sumner is an ex-British army surgeon fresh from the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He’s been booted from the army for leaving his station in a time of warfare, and while he’s waiting for an inheritance to fructify, he joins the crew of a whaler, The Volunteer, bound for the Arctic Circle. One of the crew, Henry Drax, is a murderer and worse, and he’s rightfully accused of a shipboard murder. Another of the upset crew voices a prophecy that, because of the crime they’ll all die there except for Sumner, who ferrets out Drax’s crime and who will die in another place and manner.

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The story, told in present tense and largely from the point of view of Sumner, as the prophecy seems to come true, follows the crew through a spate of whaling, then of survival. McGuire’s depiction of the inhospitable arctic scenery takes on the import of a character here, and Drax’s implied presence is never far away from the crew’s – and Sumner’s – consciousness.
Irony is never to be denied in such stories, and what seems barren and debilitating to the Volunteer’s crew is natural and rather inviting to the native Esquimauxs of this clime.
The writing is elegant, sometimes approaching purple, but the power of McGuire’s narrative prose cannot be denied.
The ending owes something of a debt to Guy de Maupassant, an obvious sleight of hand that will leave some readers unsatisfied. However, it will be classroom fodder for literature students for quite some time.

My rating: 18 of 20 stars

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my own books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Hardball Publishing and Selling

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Okay, tooting my own horn begins today, and I’ll begin with my first novel. A REASON TO TREMBLE was originally published in Canada. Because of the dollar exchange between the U.S. and Canada, the company was able to sell books in the U.S. at prices below comparable books published here. But Canada has to depend on American distributors, and so the U.S. publishers apparently made a deal with the U.S. distributors to hold up to $1 million worth of U.S. sales for my publisher. Since many publishers like mine depend on cash flow to stay in business, my publisher went broke.

Long story short, I obtained the rights to A REASON TO TREMBLE, but didn’t do anything with those rights for a while. My company had an original run for my book of 10,000 copies, and were to have destroyed the unsold copies, some 7500 of them, per my agreement. This didn’t happen, and these copies began showing up for sale on the Internet.

This was my first book published and an icy bath in the hardball business of book publishing and selling. Probably tainted by the book’s history, I found no subsequent publishers, so I published it through Create Space, and that’s the version that’s out there now.

If you find this title in mass market paperback, please don’t buy it; instead, show some love to the one with this cover:

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What’s the story? A young girl, Emily Shane, is riding home from dance lessons after sundown on her bike in the fictional town of Hope, Georgia, and is struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver. Father Pat seeks the unknown killer, hoping to gain revenge for his daughter’s death, but the task is quickly taken up by Pat’s brother Jason, a down-on-his-luck Vietnam veteran. Before long, most of the population of Hope is involved, and Jason’s search reaches into the highest levels of government.

I chose originally to write in the mystery genre, and my efforts remained there through my second book, which will be profiled tomorrow.

 

Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information and a book trailer for A REASON TO TREMBLE. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

The Girl On The Train – Movie Review

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This past summer as I nursed a failing metal knee replacement and another bit of personal trauma I see fit not to mention here, I holed up watching movies – terrible movies, movies I’ve seen a million times, streaming movies, movies on demand. While I purport to review movies here, I’ve failed miserably to live up to that claim. And, given my description above of the movies I’ve been watching, you may thank me for failing to do so. And to compound the felony, I’ve quit going to theaters. Why? Perhaps because there might be a crazed shooter in the lobby. Who knows?

But now the movies I really wanted to see these past months are showing up on On-Demand, and so tonight I broke out the Visine and watched one: The Girl On The Train.

I’d read Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train a year or so ago and was curious how that complex story was handled in cinema. (You can find my review of the book somewhere on this blog). The story is built around Rachel, who of course rides the train, and is an alcoholic. What the movie makes abundantly clear is that Rachel has mental issues beyond her taste for booze, which gives the story its kicker. She fantasizes about a couple she used to live near, thinking them the perfect couple – until the wife disappears.

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From that point, director Tate Taylor paces the story perfectly, his work complemented by Danny Elfman’s musical score. The acting is excellent, particularly Emily Blunt’s Rachel, who has the pancaked personality of the poor woman down pat. One of Erin Cressida Wilson’s screenplay tricks is Rachel’s voiceover that easily mimicks Hawkins’ narrative delving into Rachel’s angst.

To my mind, it’s rare that a movie is able to follow the sensibility of novel as well as this movie did. Congratulations to all concerned.

My rating: 19 of 20 stars

 

Visit my website here. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

A Southern Boss Tweed

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The Commissioner – A True Story of Deceit, Dishonor, and Death, by Bill Keith

Sometimes I read a book, not to assess its literary qualities, but simply because it fits into my personal history. This is one of those. But first, something about the author. Bill Keith is a journalist who has really gotten around. He worked as a war correspondent in Vietnam, has free-lanced in Tokyo, Europe, and the Philippines. And finally, he spent many years in my hometown, Shreveport, LA, as an investigative reporter.

What investigation did he become embroiled in here to justify this book? The Public Safety Commissioner of the city back in the 70s was a well thought of man, George D’Artois. But George has an expensive gambling problem, and he begins embezzling money from the city coffers. Finally a reporter, Jim Leslie, uncovers George’s illegalities. Leslie is subsequently killed in a mobster-style hit in New Orleans, and rumor has it that George ordered the hit.
George is, in Keith’s story, the local kingpin. He controls the mayor’s office, the city council, and almost all the shady businesses in Shreveport. Shreveport, you see, has always been a semi-domesticated city – peopled by thugs, gamblers, and drug dealers, as well as bluenosed religious types that wouldn’t flinch in eye-for-an-eye situations. Too, Shreveport was and still is a city known for its racism, and George was the one appointed to keep the black population in constant fear and dread.
The new Chief of Police, then, unmindful of most of Shreveport’s social ills, draws the line at tolerating political corruption. He determines that his department is so corrupt he can only turn to the local newspapers to help expose D’Artois as Leslie’s murderer. As George’s gambling and shakedowns become unearthed, those doing the uncovering are threatened with bombings, murder, and kidnappings.
Finally with the help of the FBI and Baton Rouge police, enough evidence is brought to bear against George for an arrest. As if the continual exposés and George’s consequent threats don’t keep the populace on edge, George holes up in his attic with a .357, his family downstairs, and tells the cops to “come and get me.” They do, George is arraigned, and the judge inexplicably throws the case out. But months of stress as his habits are exposed sickens George, and he dies in a Texas hospital.

Knowing the outcome doesn’t spoil reading Keith’s work here in the least; after all, it was splashed all over the local papers for months, and one of those newspapers is nominated for a Pulitzer. The book is written in good, journeyman journalistic language, hardly like a taut novel, though, and the personal reasons behind D’Artois’ mental and emotional decay are left by the wayside. Still, it’s an easy read, and George’s antics, which remind greatly of New York’s Boss Tweed, are the stuff of high entertainment, even as they evolve into a modern morality play.
My rating: 16 of 20 stars

Visit my website here. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

Home and Heart

Belonging

Sometimes it takes a push to get us out of our rut, the habits that would have us waste the precious days of our lives. And when we fail to see the love and support of those around us for what they are, well, it’s time to hit the road, to clear our senses and minds of their accumulated crud. Stephen Banks, in the following passage from A Place of Belonging, had to clear the air in just this fashion.

At one in the morning, they stopped for coffee and gas on the Gainesville connector. Then the roadway lighting and the green overhead signs led them to Atlanta and onto the northern leg of its beltway. This perimeter road, once a rural road, is now a haphazard fabric of too-wide urban laneage passing through business high-rise developments and random, sprawling subdivisions. Workers were patching and overlaying the eastbound lane at this hour, while traffic was at its least dense. The asphalt arc ahead of Banks and Ginger hosted a scattering of red taillights, eighteen-wheelers, and automobiles as they droned to the west.

Ginger sat, legs doubled, her head resting on the cab’s seat back and cushioned by her right arm. Warwoman lay silent and unmoving on the cab’s floor. Banks occasionally eyed the incandescent high rises until they gave way to the more muted lighting of homes buried in the tree cover of suburban neighborhoods. Then more high rises before he crossed the Chattahoochee River and Interstate 75. He swung southward toward Interstate 20, the way west. Again, he crossed the ‘Hooch, as the river is called by the locals, its waters tumbling silently southward.

He stole a glance at his watch. A quarter until three. The signs and lights and buildings dimmed and then shrunk to the horizon at his rear. The highway before him transformed – dropping lanes, darkening, becoming once more a quiet, thin passage as it snaked through rolling, grassy hills. He shifted in his seat, right arm over the seat back, his left hand guiding the truck through the road’s gentle curvature. He held his speedometer to sixty-five, assumed an easy place within the flow of westbound traffic. Now oncoming lights became an unbroken stream as rush hour loomed. Soon random starlight gave way to the luminous gray dome of morning.

He stopped at a rest area just across the Alabama line. Ginger woke, fumbled with the door handle, and finally shoved it open. Warwoman jumped and began to nose the ground.

“Not time to eat yet, girl,” said Banks. The dog circled him, yapping. He bent to a nearby water fountain and stuck his thumb into its stream, guided a line of water into the grass. Warwoman lapped at the dampness.

“I’m hungry, too,” said Ginger. She blinked and yawned, arms crossed, hands squeezing her shoulders in the coolness of morning.

Banks smiled. “All right, I know when I’m outvoted.”

A small cinderblock grill stood at the end of the closest intersecting walkway. Banks opened the camper and dragged the cooler to the tailgate. Together, he and Ginger carried it to the grill, their feet spinning up white walkway pebbles as they lurched under the cooler’s weight.

Ginger climbed into the pickup’s rear while Banks probed the cooler’s contents. She returned with the Coleman stove and a plastic grocery bag. She drew out a box of instant oatmeal and a tin of coffee. Banks went to the truck, returned with a gallon jug of water, a cooking kit and a small, battered aluminum camp percolator. He poured one of the cooking pots full of water and measured coffee and water into the percolator. Then he mixed shreds of luncheon meat with stale bread and milk into a metal bowl and set the dish on the ground. Warwoman pushed the bowl across the grass as she ate. Banks watched her for a while, and then he killed the Coleman stove’s flames.

Ginger had set two steaming bowls of instant oatmeal side by side on the picnic table, a plastic spoon before each. They ate their fill, huddled together against the chill. Banks poured coffee. They sipped and watched the crown of the sun transform from a red hillock to an enlarging orange sphere.

Ginger rose and scrambled across the park grounds. Minutes later, she emerged from the restroom building, her hair pulled into a ponytail. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold water, and she had buttoned her denim jacket, hands tucked into her armpits for warmth.

She and Banks sat side by side once more, facing the swelling fire on the eastern horizon. Truck doors slammed below them as drivers awoke and stumbled stiffly to the restrooms. The morning began a slow warming, the Interstate’s atonal hum growing louder.

“We should go soon,” said Banks.

Ginger snuggled closer. “I remember traveling on roads like this,” she said.

Banks turned. “You remember this highway?”

“No. Not really.”

“What, then?”

Her brow knotted. “I remember people I met. Some of them were mean to me. They said I was a tramp. But a lot of them were nice.” She shook her head. “A lot of them were like me. They didn’t have homes like you and Mattie do.”

Banks looked away. “Yeah.”

“Most of them were like us,” said Ginger. “They were looking for something. They didn’t know what, or where, but they were looking.”

Neither spoke. Then Banks said, “We really need to go. We have a lot of country to cross before nightfall.”

He finished his coffee and poured the pot’s remainder into his cup. He helped Ginger clean, dry, and reassemble the cooking gear. By the time they boarded the pickup and nosed back onto the Interstate, it was almost seven o’clock.

Ginger switched on the radio, and they listened to a wavering drivetime talk show until it collapsed into static. The land seemed to have awakened as the sun rose, cattle grazing on undulating, fenced-in plots of land. After a while, Banks slowed and pointed to people emerging from their homes – blurred, animated figurines beginning to make their peace with the morning.

An hour later, a roadway sign announced they were nearing Anniston, Alabama.

Ginger bent, turned the radio dial from station to station. She settled on a rollicking country song:

 

I love the road, baby can’t you see me flying

I love the road, it’s no lie

It’s all about going over yonder

Just to see what’s up around the bend

 

Banks grinned, wriggled into a more comfortable position on the bench seat. Though he yet failed to recognize it, some dormant thing within him was slipping its moorings, making him antsy, eager. For the moment, danger lay to their rear, over the horizon to the east, an ill dream to be dealt with later. This day promised adventure – a new world beckoning, as complex, as unknown as the roads they were traveling, effusive as life itself. This was what he needed – a constantly regenerating feeling of vitality, everything new and enthralling.

“I think I’ll get off here,” he said.

“Why?” asked Ginger.

He chuckled. “Like that song said, just to see what’s around the bend.”

He took the off ramp and turned north. Soon, Anniston lay before them on Highway 431, a highway sliced through solemn forests lining the western side of the Talladega Mountains, leading to the Coosa and Tennessee Rivers.

Anniston is an old Alabama town grown to a small, new city. Banks guided the pickup off the Interstate and through its quiet streets, past its economic lifeblood, Fort McClellan. There, the pathway branched, and they took the road toward Gadsden, to the northwest.

Deep in the north Alabama hills, the countryside changed from quiet, pastoral beauty to the silent decay of poverty. They passed small, rusted mobile homes behind large, unkempt autos and trucks guarded by lethargic dogs that occasionally lifted their legs on the vehicles’ tires and yapped dispassionately at passersby.

Near Gadsden the road widened to four lanes, separated into pairs by a swale and a swath of grass. They crossed the Coosa River. Gadsden blurred as they passed. They stopped at a service station on the north side of town for a bathroom break. Then they drove on, through a gauntlet of shops. They passed the outlet malls of Boaz, slipped through Albertville, and on down a mountainside.

Banks’ truck flounced onto a long bridge over Lake Guntersville, a dammed segment of the Tennessee River, clouds of mist suspended over the lake’s still waters. Deep in the mist, they could make out small, clustered islands.

He held the pickup to the road’s curves and swells, the truck’s large, six-cylinder engine churning easily up the gentle mountain slopes toward Huntsville.

The road twisted into a maze of turns as they climbed. Banks and Ginger oohed and pointed, the heights allowing them for the moment to own the panorama rising above the western leg of the Tennessee River. Clean, fragrant air swept past them. They rolled down the windows, breathed it in. They listened to birds hallooing from fences and telephone wires paralleling the road. Warwoman rose, her hind legs planted between Ginger’s legs, her head out the window. She turned to Ginger and barked as wind and birdsongs streamed past them.

Huntsville, originally named Twickenham in honor of English poet Alexander Pope’s home, emerged just ahead, a town chiseled into mountaintop rock, as if it were meant to be a jumping-off place to the stars. They drove the crest of Huntsville’s backbone, passed the Redstone Arsenal and the Air, Space, and Rocket Center, where German technicians had once gathered to labor over the birth of space travel. Those German scientists, Banks thought, they must have felt at home here in this clean, kept town.

They stopped in a roadside park north of town, made sandwiches from the cooler, and sat for a while beneath the pencil-straight pines. The afternoon had grown warm at the road’s edge, heat rising from the roadway and preventing cooler air from escaping the evergreens. Ginger took Warwoman for a walk through the trees. Banks opened one door of the pickup, stretched the length of the seat, and slept.

He woke nearly two hours later, face moist with sweat. His nose itched. He slapped at the itch. Finally, he opened his eyes. Ginger hovered inches above him, grinning. She drew back the feather she’d held to his nose and then arced it toward him again.

“Don’t,” he said.

She giggled, touched the feather to his nose. He grabbed at it, missed.

Then he rubbed his eyes and looked to his watch. Three-thirty. He wriggled from the truck, stood, scratched, removed the hunting jacket, stuffed it behind the seat.

“We went down the mountainside, Banks,” said Ginger. “We saw a raccoon and a hawk, didn’t we, girl?”

Warwoman barked her agreement.

Banks peered past them to the precipitous slope and its tangle of underbrush.

“It was fun,” said Ginger, “but I had to pick ticks off Warwoman.”

She smiled and turned shyly away as he scrutinized her. She now wore about her neck a garland of weeds and mountain flowers. Banks inspected it. It had been woven carefully and precisely. She looked up, hands clasped primly at her waist. Her dark eyes gleamed. She seemed different somehow; more like a Native American, he thought. Her hair hung loose, cascading over her shoulders. She’d tucked a feather into her hair along the crown of her head. She’d removed her denim jacket, had tied it about her hips, the white of her tee shirt a stark contrast to the bronze of her arms and face.

Since he’d met her, she’d displayed moments of anxiety, even fear, alternated with a child-like playfulness and contentment. During her quiet moments, she’d often seemed preoccupied, brooding, perhaps over lost memory. Now, whatever had been hovering about her appeared to have dissipated. She smiled, as much a part of the quiet stateliness of the place as the pines and mountains and underbrush.

“Come on,” said Banks. He climbed into the cab and started the engine.

“Can’t we have a snack first?”

“We’re going to stop for the day soon,” said Banks. “Get in.”

Ginger and Warwoman climbed into the truck, the dog in Ginger’s lap. Warwoman shoved her way to Ginger’s window, tongue hanging, wind ruffling her fur. They crossed the Tennessee line, and less than an hour later neared Fayetteville. They stopped at a vacant roadside saloon and took turns urinating behind the building.

A faucet topped a piece of pipe next to the long, clapboard-clad building. Banks turned it on. Brown water sputtered from it. Then the coffee-colored fluid paled to a clear stream. Light caught its surge, jeweled droplets spewing into the gravel. He took off his boots and shirt and washed. Then he filled a rusty bucket he’d found nearby and carried it to the building’s rear for Ginger. While he and Warwoman played in the parking lot, Ginger stripped and bathed.

He set the Coleman stove on the truck’s tailgate, opened a can of collard greens and another of pinto beans, and warmed them. Then he fried three large slabs of ham in a skillet. Ginger spooned the vegetables and meat onto two steel plates and added slices of wheat bread from the loaf she’d stowed in the cooler. Banks cut up the remaining piece of ham and kneaded it into a mixture of beans and bread for Warwoman.

By the time they’d finished eating, the sun had slouched its way to the western horizon. Ginger sat on the hood of the truck and clapped as the sun’s red and yellow arc dimmed and then swooned into dusk. Banks leaned against the pickup hood, peered to the west, and waved his goodbyes to the day.

Caught up in the sunset, they failed to notice an approaching car until it had stopped and the driver had slammed the door. Banks seized Ginger’s hand, turned. A police car – FAYETTEVILLE POLICE stenciled on its front door.

The policeman eyed Ginger, then Banks. “You folks planning to spend the night here?”

“Hadn’t given it much thought yet,” said Banks. “Might want to, though.”

“Where you from?”

“North Georgia. From the mountains. We’re on vacation, camping out.”

“Your mountains as pretty as these?” The policeman waved a hand toward the dimming horizon.

“Yep,” said Banks.

“I love it,” the policeman said. “Wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

“I can see why,” said Banks.

“Y’all pull off to the other side of the building, into the trees, and you’ll be out of sight. Nobody’ll bother you there.”

Banks nodded a thank you, and the police car crept onto the road toward town.

Ginger let out a cry and hugged Banks to her.

“No need to be scared, Gin. We haven’t done anything wrong.” He stroked her hair.

“But he’s a cop.”

“Yep. Just like me.”

She gave him a tentative smile. They climbed back into the cab, and Banks pulled into the trees on the far side of the building.

The temperature dropped quickly as the sky darkened. For a while, they sat on the still-warm truck hood, listening to the crickets, their chirping fluttering back and forth through the pines and poplars. Then Banks made a nest for Warwoman under the pickup, and he and Ginger climbed into the camper and sprawled across the air mattress.

“I’m happy now,” said Ginger. She moved closer and touched Banks.

He grunted.

Her hand moved across this chest, then down his abdomen to his legs.

He didn’t move.

“You’re thinking about Mattie, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.”

She moved a leg over him and kissed his ear. “She’s okay, Banks. I can feel it.”

He didn’t answer.

“Everything’s perfect,” she said. “For me, and for you. It may not seem like it, but things are perfect for Mattie, too.”

He rolled over in the cramped space. Moonlight had filled her eyes, doorways to something placid and enduring within her.

“How can you say that, Gin? Everything is –” he waved a hand in the cramped space, “– in such chaos. This trip is going to upset my whole life.”

She stroked his thick hair. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but that’s the fun of it, Banks, don’t you see? We don’t know, but it feels right. Isn’t that enough?”

Her finger touched his lips. “Shh,” she whispered. “Sleep.”

He turned, settled into the quilted mattress. Then her arm again crept across the bulk of his chest. She sighed. Her breaths lengthened, and she began her soft snoring.

Banks tried to keep Mattie from his thoughts, but he couldn’t. What was he doing? A day ago, happily ensconced in Georgia, today running, to some undetermined place, from a danger as yet without a face or purpose. He had abandoned Mattie. For Ginger. He lay, eyes closed, gently rubbing Ginger’s arm. She burrowed deeper into his warmth.

As he lay there, he could still feel the truck’s gentle sway; he could see the mountains, the towns and countryside they’d driven through, as they streamed past him once more. Mattie’s voice came, harsh at first, then dimming to a whisper. Finally, he surrendered to sleep.

Visit my website here to find out more about A PLACE OF BELONGING, or to buy the book. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

And here’s the trailer:

You Can Go Home Again

The Black House, by Peter May

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The twentieth century saw many people leave the land of their roots for what seemed more opportunity in the growing, vital urban areas. And many of these discovered that this move didn’t allow new roots and a new culture; instead it left them emotionally adrift. Peter May embraces this idea by setting his story off the Scottish coast on the Isle of Lewis, where Gaelic is still spoken, where centuries of hunting on a speck of an isle constantly renew those who live on Lewis – and those who have returned there.

Edinburgh cop Fin McLeod is tasked with returning to Lewis, the place of his birth and early years, in order to assess whether a grisly murder on Lewis is in fact connected with a very similar murder in Edinburgh. The author’s rendering of this link, and the solving of the murder on Lewis, is handled in a somewhat slapdash manner, but the murders aren’t really his project in The Black House. Instead, it’s an examination of Fin’s roots on Lewis after an eighteen year absence, his renewed relationships with old friends—and an old lover. It betrays nothing to tell that the Isle of Lewis, despite bitter memories, which include a handful of deaths, reaches out to Fin, urges him home.

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May’s writing here casts a somber but deeply rendered mood over his story, reminding this reader of Dennis Lehane’s writing. His prose is often exquisite, his depictions of hunting birds on a forbidding isle named An Sqeir perfectly rendered. Reading May’s work here is an opportunity to immerse oneself in an ancient culture that struggles daily to remain pristine and yet vital.

My rating 17 of 20 stars

Visit my website here, and my FB Fan Page here for more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.