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Purple prose, moonshiney meditations, and some warmly lively people--in a 1930s Appalachia folk-hero tale about a mountain man turned killer. Seen largely through the eyes of Paul Fortune, a boozehound journalist (searching for the Meaning of It All), the story focuses on the entangled lives of the Guffeys and Skillets--neighbors up on Wild Cat, where Paul witnesses the birth of Logan Guffey: Logan's arrival sends psychic neighbor Mrs. Skiller into a flailing tizzy, scaring even the preacher. And Logan's grim future will be further foreshadowed when his folks--Walton and sullen, restless wife Loretta--move away from the mountain, leaving Family behind for the lure of factory work; in contrast, strong moonshiner Earl Skiller, leading his brothers like a forest godfather, continues to distil his liquor with pride and craft, a man of patience and fatalism. The child Logan, then, grows up sickly, assaulted by visions (enervating to both Logan and the reader). He is sent to learn the ways of the forest with Earl--who tells him that snakes are most dangerous when there's no rattle, just ""silence around them."" But Earl is caught by the revenuers once too often; and, after the last penitentiary stint, he's driven to violence--with Logan as witness to the grisly axe murder. And there'll be months of murder and pursuit while suffeting Logan stays on the mountain with Granny Guffey: the fearful townspeople begin to see in Earl, ""this creature of darkness,"" something within themselves--leading up to a manly death quivering with overblown heroic cadenzas. A sad, boozy swan-song for the demise of old ways and the last mountain man--with an overwhelming aroma of corn. . . but also the piny fragrance of the well-observed Appalachia setting.

Pub Date: Nov. 23rd, 1984
Publisher: John F. Blair