Hillbilly noir as literary fiction of the first order.

GHOSTING

Mister Greuel never could abide chaos. Now “product” is missing, along with his best salesman, a “laker” named Fleece Skaggs. Such it is that sets a drug-dealing Kentucky enterprise unraveling in Gann’s (Our Napoleon in Rags, 2005, etc.) third novel.

The product is marijuana, albeit Mister (he insists upon the title) Greuel can provide crank, prescription drugs or suchlike to fit the customer’s needs. Fleece was the prime runner for Mister Greuel, who’s busy dying but thoroughly intent on finding the missing Fleece. James Cole Prather, always “swimming furiously in the wake of his brother’s life,” also wants to find Fleece, his half brother, but out of filial duty imposed by their prescription drug–addicted mother, Lyda. In this book, an ephemeral code of loyalty and duty is rigidly enforced by blood family or blood violence. In the first few chapters, Gann moves the setting from an abandoned Catholic seminary to a gospel church, Christ World Emergent, led by a former addict named Gil Ponder, and then to Lake Holloway and a community of edge-dwelling, hard-bitten ne’er-do-wells and sometime outlaws. In this mix there is Cole’s object of lust, Shady Beck, Audi-driving rich girl, ready to sit on Mister Greuel’s lap and partake of his marijuana. Gann peoples his tale with other riveting, memorable characters, including Arley Noe, “Blue Note” because of the illness-tinged skin color; professor Mule, an enforcer with a tool kit and a taste for mystery novels; and Nathan Crutchfield, marijuana farmer and sometime philosopher. The author has a gift for the right phrase and description. Unfolding with unflinching clarity and moral inevitability, this is a tale of love and loyalty, family and duty, naïveté and duplicity, played out on an amoral landscape of drugs and violence.

Hillbilly noir as literary fiction of the first order.

Pub Date: April 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-19354394-7-9

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Ig Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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