Lindemuth (Solomon Bull, 2017, etc.) tells the story of a moonshiner who goes up against the local mob in this rural noir novel.
In the woods surrounding the small town of Gleason, North Carolina, middle-aged Baer Creighton brews moonshine, nurses old heartaches, and keeps away from the local crime boss, Joe Stipe. Baer can’t lie, and he can’t abide hearing the falsehoods of others—they cause him to experience an electrical sensation that he can barely control—and so he prefers the company of his beloved pit bull, Fred, to that of people. When Stipe and his dogfighting cronies kidnap Fred and force the animal to fight for its life, the oft-drunk Baer swears revenge. At first, he believes that he’s up to the task, and he concocts a plan that will allow him to retaliate from a safe distance. Stipe, however, proves to be a brutal opponent; to survive this feud, Baer will be forced to the edge of his psyche as he confronts the lies in his past. Lindemuth writes in a Southern dialect that perfectly evokes the woods and hollows of the Carolina hills. Baer’s voice is as textured as the landscape (“All my life I got out the way so the liars and cheats could go on lying and cheating one another. I can spot a liar like nobody”), and the brutal acts that he describes are timeless and primal. Even within the bounds of this vernacular, Lindemuth manages to fashion sharp observations: “Cory Smylie was irredeemable, but given the vastness of Stipe’s enterprise, odd jobs presented that were uniquely suited to irredeemable men.” The book is on the long side and would perhaps have benefited from the removal of a few scenes. But the world of Gleason is so immersive and Baer’s vendetta so oddly compelling that readers will forgive some occasional bloat. Fans of noir tales set in rural America will particularly welcome this addition to the genre.
A harsh but often engaging novel
rendered in incantatory country language.