A SINGLE SHOT by Matthew F. Jones


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Backwoods blood and gore from the author whose previous expeditions into the grotesque (The Cooter Farm, 1991; The Elements of Hitting, 1994) have shown just how far we can go down Tobacco Road. John Moon is the sort of country boy who makes his living by killing things in the forest. Unhappily divorced from a wife who looks upon him as no-account trash, he sets out at the beginning of the story to patch things up by poaching a deer for her, but he accidentally shoots a young girl instead. This is his first mistake, and even John can see that it's a big one. ""He thinks of the hundreds of animals he has shot, gutted, and cut into strips of meat. . . . Blood is blood, he thinks, wiping the girl's on his pants. And dead is dead."" What to do? Well, of course the police are out of the question, so John very sensibly locks the girl's corpse in his freezer along with his venison steaks and tries to go on as before. Unfortunately, however, the gift had a very mean boyfriend who deals drugs and just happens to be an old prison friend of one of John's neighbors. John's attorney, Daggard Pitt, suspects that something is up, but John can't quite bring himself to trust the lawyer (he used to work for the bank that foreclosed on his parents' farm), and he manages to dig himself a very deep hole in short order. There's a climactic bloodbath, and along the way we're treated to a fair amount of sleazy hillbilly sex, but this is nevertheless a stoW aiming to be about moral regeneration, written in the most tragic Faulknerian mode. The tragedy here, though, seems merely to degrade with an even hand, and it's not at all clear at the end that anyone has truly been saved. Powerfully written but ultimately empty.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"