With an enemies list including bankers, loan sharks, and the Ku Klux Klan—not to mention ferocious dust storms—farmer Sonny Myers takes drastic measures to survive in late-1930s Kansas.
So dire are the conditions and so broken are Sonny's promises of better days that his wife, Clara, has headed west to California. Equally struggling friends convince him the only way to save his parched land—and stick it to the bank that just repossessed his stove and sewing machine—is to rob that bank. The odds of pulling that off certainly seem better than inducing precipitation, as a traveling rainmaker promises to do by firing a few blasts of mortar at the sky. Surviving the Klan, which torches the outspokenly opposed Sonny's barn with a burning cross, is another thing entirely. Sonny is cheered, in his stoic way, by the return of the spirited, sharp-tongued Clara, who becomes part of the rainmaker's show. But the promise of a fruitful life is all but gone. Canadian novelist Kalteis (Triggerfish, 2016, etc.) does a brilliant job of planting us in this particular time and place with details such as "hinges creaking like all Kansas hinges creaked" and a continuous soundtrack of songs by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Woody Herman, Jimmie Rodgers, and Tex Ritter. Kalteis is more interested in existential issues than McCoy and Hatfield–type encounters. With the exception of a shattering scene involving a mule, whose braying was like a scream," the violence is restrained. Even at its darkest, the story is lifted by a light, engaging touch.
A sharp-witted, affecting noir, Dust Bowl–style.