THROWBACK by Frank C. Strunk


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 Two mountain men pursue each other through backwoods Kentucky in a bloody tale of violence and revenge. Strunk's third novel returns to rustic Stanton County. But, instead of the 1930s Depression-era setting of his earlier work (Jordon's Showdown, 1993, etc.), this one is set in the gaudy present and features a smarmy psychokiller hillbilly named Darnell Pittmore, his ditsy girlfriend Hayley, and his inbred weirdo relatives Wormy and Shank, who help him kidnap Shelby Stockton, granddaughter of wealthy patrician lawyer G.D. Stockton, and hold her for a million-dollar ransom. Of course, the only man who can stop Pittmore is Shelby's other grandfather, Cole Clayfield--a kindly, college-educated mountain man who makes furniture in his spare time, communes with his dogs, and is tough enough to drink the blood of a freshly killed raccoon, soft enough to quote The Rub†iy†t, weak enough to remain haunted by his wife's tragic hit- and-run death, and man enough to hunt Pittmore down to his trashy boondocks lair. Such a task is more easily imagined than accomplished: In the novel's best scene, Clayfield, wounded and left for dead by Pittmore, hacks off a mangled finger and uses it to snare a gullible raccoon, which he then skillfully butchers, roasts, and devours, thus surviving until help arrives. Mostly, though, the story meanders downhill; on the one hand, Clayfield blunders badly in unlikely ways; on the other, he miraculously persuades Pittmore to give him back his arsenal of guns and his trusty pickup truck so that he can fetch the ransom money from G.D. Stockton. You don't have to be mountain-born to realize that such concessions make it considerably easier for your sworn enemy to kill you. Strunk tries to balance his macho violence with lessons on family values and homespun wisdom, but plot weaknesses make Clayfield's sensitive homilies hard to buy.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-06-101057-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996