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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Hell at the Breech tells of an often overlooked part of America's history. When we think of the lawlessness in 19th-century America's Wild West, we often forget that other parts of the USA were also frontier territories that were ruled by the gun in the late-19th century. The rural South, suffering the effects of the Civil War, was also a place of small towns, far-flung rural communities and renegade outlaws. Tom Franklin tells a fictionalised version of the Mitcham War of Clarke County, Alabama in the 1890s. When a local politician was accidentally killed, a feud developed between rural outlaws and townspeople in which lawlessness and bloodshed reached shocking proportions.
Tom Franklin weaves a captivating tale based on these events. Franklin's spare, but vivid language is in the best tradition of Southern American writing. His observant eye picks up the detail of the ignorant and violent rural poor, as well as the hypocrisy and cruelty of the town dwellers. The frightening tale of redneck murderers and vengeful townsfolk reveals the darker side of human nature in a way that avoids both easy judgement and prurience. The violent story is told with simplicity and immense power rather than gratuitousness. Franklin hints at how the violent frontier past of the USA is part of her present inheritance, and so holds up a mirror to a society that is at once deeply religious and deeply violent. Franklin is a writer to watch. He explores powerful themes within a gripping story without apology. Like the hero of his story, he exercises restraint and dignity, but he shoots straight. --Dwight LongeneckerReview:
Praise for ‘Hell at the Breech’:
‘Beautifully written and potent.’ Daniel Woodrell, Washington Post
‘A literary knockout. Franklin has cleverly woven history and fiction. “Hell at the Breech” is an impressive novel that should catapult Franklin into the big leagues.’ USA Today
‘Such exquisite prose, such depth of character and depth of emotion that you feel swept up in a terrible beauty. “Hell at the Breech” bears comparison only with other great novels, and it ensures a place for Tom Franklin in the highest ranks of our country’s new writers.’ Dennis Lehane
‘The most extraordinary first novel to come out of the South since Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”…hypnotically captivating.’ Orlando Sentinel
‘Franklin evokes time and place with language of eloquence and fire, and his journey through the evils men do leads down the old dark ways of the heart.’ William Gay
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Book Description Flamingo, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110002261596