A gang of hooded outlaws, a year-long reign of terror, a legendary massacre -- the extraordinary events of the Mitcham Beat War are brought to life in this superb new novel from the Edgar Award-winning author of Poachers. In 1897, in a remote area of Alabama called Mitcham Beat, an aspiring politician is mysteriously murdered. His outraged supporters form the Hell at the Breech gang -- and wage a bloody campaign of retribution that sweeps up the guilty and the innocent alike. Caught in this maelstrom of vengeance are the county's ageing sheriff, the widowed midwife who delivered nearly every member of the gang, a ruthless detective waging a private war, and a young store clerk with a terrible secret. Soaked in the atmosphere of the Deep South, Tom Franklin weaves together historical fact, spare, poised prose and brutal, vivid action to tell a powerful story of ordinary people testing their capacity for good and evil in a harsh and lawless land -- in so doing writing a novel worthy of comparison to the works of William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and James Dickey.
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Tom Franklin was born and raised in south Alabama. He is the author of the acclaimed collection of stories entitled Poachers, which was named as a Best First Book of Fiction by Esquire in 1999 and was also the winner of a 1999 Edgar Award for the title story. Recipient of a 2001 Guggenheim Fellowship, he has held the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residency at Ole Miss and the Tennessee Williams Fellowship at Sewanee. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife, the poet Beth Ann Fennelly, and their young daughter, Claire.From Publishers Weekly:
This immensely accomplished novel by the author of the Edgar Award-winning short story collection Poachers is based on a real-life feud in the 1890s that pitted the underclass-poor, mostly white sharecroppers-of Clarke County, Ala., against the land-owning gentry who could and did control their fate. But that simple summary does not do justice to the complex and incredibly violent events that shook the community. The seeds of the violent uprising are planted when Macky Burke, a poor, white teenage orphan living with his grandmother, the widow Gates, accidentally shoots local merchant Arch Bedsole during a holdup. Arch's enraged cousin, Quincy "Tooch" Bedsole, a down-at-the-heels farmer, cultivates those seeds with a mixture of resentment, greed and a desire for vengeance. He forms the "Hell-at-the-Breech" gang, made up of criminals and struggling white tenant farmers who but for their guns are nearly as powerless as the former slaves they compete with for work. Hell-at-the-Breech terrorizes Clarke County, exacting frontier justice (and cash) from the exploitative landowners, driving black sharecroppers out of the county and menacing the white farmers who are too law-abiding to join their ranks. Fighting the outbreak of violence is Sheriff Billy Waite, an essentially good man trying to keep the peace and administer justice in a lawless world. Despite an unremitting catalogue of violence, this gory book is a pleasure to read for its clean, unexpected turns of phrase (in a cotton field, "each tuft [is] white as a senator's eyebrow"); the laconic humor of its characters ("Rumors fly out of Mitcham Beat like hair in a catfight"); and vibrant, complex characters who spring from the pages. Franklin may have used history as a starting point, but he imagines the events in human terms, creating a book that transmutes historical fact into something much more powerful, dramatic and compelling.
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Book Description Flamingo, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 2261596