Now that he’s in his 80s, Harry Crane’s memories turn from his rest home in Houston back to his early teens in the ’30s in East Texas, where his father, Jacob, was the town barber and constable, his mother was the town beauty, and he and his baby sister Thomasina played in the local woods, the Bottoms, scaring each other silly with tales of the Goat Man who supposedly roamed the area. One day, Harry and young Tom, who spend a lot more time shooting squirrels than going to school, find a dead colored lady strung up with wire and cut up something awful. The local Klansmen don’t care, of course, but Jacob does, especially when he learns that three other colored prostitutes have died in the same way. Then Miss Maggie, a black centenarian, is strangled, and Mrs. Canerton, who spurned Cecil, the town’s other barber, is found chopped and trussed, while Red Woodrow, who may unknowingly be part Negro, disappears. The lynching that follows sends Jacob, who feels responsible, into an alcoholic decline. He barely has time to dry out before Harry and Tom and their grandma confront Goat Man—and far worse—at the precarious Swinging Bridge.
A coming-of-age tale in which a young boy grapples with poverty, Klansmen’s threats, his mother’s early romantic history, a growing disrespect for his dad, and murder. Lansdale, whose claim on East Texas (Freezer Burn, 1999, etc.) remains undisputed, takes dead aim at the stupidity of prejudice and hits the bull’s-eye.