Wallace Stroby Shows The Hard Word Book Club How To Plan a Heist

kings of midnight


The Hard Word Book Club meets Wednesday, July 29, at 7 pm, on BookPeople’s third floor, to discuss Kings of Midnight, by Wallace Stroby. Stroby calls in to make this a special Hard Word occasion. All book club books are 10% off in the month of their selection.


July’s Hard Word Book Club looks at one of the best crooks since Parker. Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone is a heist-woman doing scores to get her mentor and lover out of prison. Crissa Stone, as a professional thief with a sensitive side, brings a fresh take and and stronger emotional core to the heist novel while still being very hard-boiled. One of the best examples of Stroby’s Stone novels is Kings Of Midnight.

In Kings Of Midnight, Stroby uses true crime as a part of his crime fiction, using the 1978 Lufthansa Robbery made famous by the film Goodfellas. After the robbery it was believed most of the robbers were murdered by their ringleader or the mafia. While some money was found, over five million was never recovered. Kings Of Midnight uses the premise that the remaining loot could or could not be in the home of a mob boss. At least that is what Crissa is told by Benny, a former mobster loosely based on informant Henry Hill. if she can trust a former snitch, it’ll be a big pay off. Either way, the troubles she already has with the mob will expand.

There is a lot to discuss about Kings Of Midnight: the anti-heroine, using real crime in crime fiction, honor among thieves. Luckily, Wallace Stroby joins the Hard Word Book Club in a conference call the day of discussion to help us out. Join us on BookPeople’s 3rd Floor at 7PM, Wednesday, July 29th. The book is 10% off at the register to those who attend.

You can find copies of Kings of Midnight on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Crime Fiction Friday: TEXAS COCKFIGHTER by Andrew Hilbert

Andrew Hilbert is both a writer and publisher of left-of-center fiction. We’re happy to have him reading at our Noir At The Bar On November 22nd, where he’ll be joined by Jesse Sublett, CJ Howell, and Brad Parks. Noir at the Bar meets at Opal Divine’s at 7 PM. Andrew was kind enough to give us this story originally published by Gutter Press and told me it was inspired by a conversation with a cockfight historian.


“Texas Cockfighter” by Andrew Hilbert

“People talk shit on cockfighting like we was fightin’ dogs or something. We’re not fightin’ dogs. Fuckin’ fightin’ roosters fight to the death naturally. People talking shit on it don’t even know the history.” Charlie took a swig of whiskey out of a flask that he hid in his tattered jean jacket.

“What’s the history?”

“For instance, did you know Abraham Lincoln was called Honest Abe?”

“Every fucking grade schooler knows that, Chuck.”

Charlie put up his hand in an effort to silence Henry.

“Please,” Charlie said. “It’s Charlie now. Chuck seems too white trash.”

“You’re talking about the virtues of cockfighting and you’re worried about sounding white trash?”

Charlie shook his head and looked at his main fighting cock, ba-gocking around, strutting his shit just looking for a fight. Charlie named him Honest Abe, of course.

“Yeah, so what? Every grade school, pre-pubescent girlie boy knows Lincoln was Honest Abe but the history is blacked out. Erased. Censored as if Americans are too dumb to understand tradition. Honest Abe got his nickname because he was a cockfighting referee. People paid him because they knew he’d be fair in his judgments.”

Henry spit out his chew and pointed at Honest Abe the fighting cock.

“If it’s such a pure pastime, then why the hell do you attach blades to its feet?”

Charlie took another swig.

“Otherwise if’n you don’t do that, the damn things will be fighting all damn day. Can’t have a bunch of gambling men hootin’ and hollerin’ and throwing money down for twelve hours. The police are guna notice!”

Henry shook his head. “This is some stupid shit to get arrested for.”

“Fighting birds fight to the death naturally. It ain’t cruelty. You ain’t have to train them. They just do. Dogs, though, that’s cruelty through and through. Dogs are like dumb ass humans. It ain’t right, even if they’s stupid.”

“You oughta pull out of this business. Convert these fuckers into chicken nuggets. I don’t want to turn on the TV and see your face all ugly on the evening news saying you got caught fighting chickens. It’s pathetic. It’s a pathetic crime.”

Charlie leaned in his seat against the picket fence in his backyard and took another swig of whiskey.

“What? You got somethin’ better for me to do? Did you know the fighting bird was in second place to be our national symbol?”

“Jesus Christ, Chuck, get off it.”

“It’s Charlie now. Chuck ain’t respectable.”

Henry stood up and shook his head as he stared at his boots in the dirt.

“I should get going. You’ve got too much cock on your mind.”

“Oh, hardy-har-har.”

“I came here to offer you something more profitable. Something much more profitable than fighting pre-chicken nuggets. If you can drive, you’ve got a job.”

Charlie got out of his seat and put his hand out to his brother. He had a smile from ear to ear. He needed more money for new fighting birds; Honest Abe was getting old. He could barely lift his feet beneath the weight of the blades.

“I can drive, sure as hell can. Not legally, really, but I can.”

“Dogs. We’re transporting dogs. Mobile dog fighting. It’s a big fucking business, man. How much you make on one cock fight?”

Charlie sat back down, shaking his head and waving his hands in the air, he said, “No, no, no. It ain’t about the money, brother. It ain’t about the money. It’s about the tradition. Six thousand years of it.”

“It’s always about the money. We have guys around the world betting on these fights. We stream them online. The feds can’t ever trace us. I made ten thousand last month.”

Charlie shook his head.

“Ten thousand?” He could hardly believe it.

“Ten fucking thousand.”

But Charlie shook his head again and said, “No. I stand by what I said. Cockfighting ain’t cruel but dogfighting is wrong.”

“Have it your way, brother. Take care of that license of yours and give me a call. The offer stands whenever you’re done with these damn chickens.”

Henry tipped his hat and left through the back gate.

Honest Abe was dragging his feet around. The heat was getting to him. Walking around with blades in this hot of weather without a fight probably wasn’t the best idea. Charlie stood up, unhooked the blades, and sat back down with his bottle of whiskey.

“Honest Abe, you got one more fight in you,” he said and took another swig.

Come by Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s on Wednesday, July 22nd at 7 PM for readings from CJ Howell, Brad Parks, Jesse Sublett, and Andrew Hilbert. Copies of each author’s latest will be on sale at Opal Divine’s for signing purposes after the speaking portion finishes up.

MysteryPeople Review: THE DEVIL’S SHARE by Wallace Stroby

the devils share

Crissa Stone, created by Wallace Stroby, has gotten to be one of my favorite series characters for this millennium. Stone works as a professional thief, raising funds to get her lover and mentor, Wayne, out of prison. She provides a certain amount of heart to this hard and streamlined heist novel while keeping her professional cool. Both the character and her relationship are tested in Wallace Stroby’s latest, The Devil’s Share.

A collector doesn’t want to give up his ill-gotten Iraqi art, soon to be repatriated. He hires Crissa to  steal it from his own convoy. She can pick her own crew, but the owner’s security consultant and war vet, Hicks, will provide the weapons and act as a chaperon on the job.

The relationship between Crissa and Hicks really makes the book. A night at a bar where they feel each other out is filled with both electricity and tension. As they work closer together, Crissa starts to question her loyalty to Wayne. Since we know to trust no one in these stories, Hicks becomes a formidable and complex ally or adversary.

Stroby hits the genre like a master craftsman, understanding the importance of brevity in the heist sub-genre. His style is concise, driving moving most of the story through action and dialogue. He keeps the emotion below the surface, creating a sense of tension in each character’s relationships. The artful hi-jacking is executed with a smooth efficiency interrupted by a couple of heart-stopping glitches and the coming aftermath tightens on its characters like a vice.

The Devil’s Share is hard-boiled heaven. Stroby gives a fresh take on the tropes we love with more depth than you might expect. The man knows how to mix his style and substance.

You can find copies of The Devil’s Share on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with C.J. Howell

CJ Howell has gotten praise from critics, readers, and fellow writers from his novel, The Last Of The Smoking Bartenders. In the novel, Tom, a man living off the grid, who may or may not be a secret agent, sets out to stop a group of terrorists from blowing up Hoover Dam. The journey takes him through the lives of several fringe dwellers of the American West with more than a couple acts of arson. CJ Howell will be joining us at our July 22nd Noir At The Bar, along with Andrew Hilbert, Brad Parks, and Jesse Sublett, and was also kind enough to let us ask him a few questions.


MysteryPeople: The Last of the Smoking Bartenders is such a unique novel.  What was the initial idea that sparked it?

CJ Howell: I wanted a character who was traveling off the grid.  When I was young, I hitchhiked from Boulder, Colorado, to Tierra del Fuego.  This was before cell phones and even email.  I crashed on many kind people’s couches and floors and got stuck sleeping on park benches and under bushes or in bus stations.  There was an immediacy to that kind of living that has always stuck with me.  But the character needed motivation for living off the grid, so I steeped him in post 9-11 paranoia and the desperation of the Great Recession and set him off on an adventure.

MP: It is also a unique title.  Did you have it in mind from the beginning?

CJH: No, the original title was “American Wasteland”, but that seemed to be too generic as the writing progressed.  The Last of the Smoking Bartenders was the title of a little end piece to a short story collection of mine and it just seemed to fit thematically.  All the characters are sort of hold outs against change, clinging to the way the West used to be, the freedom that it once offered.

Here is the original The Last of the Smoking Bartenders:

“There was a time, not long ago, although some days it feels like it was just a sepia toned dream, when bartenders carried smokes behind their ears.  They were quick with a match to light your smoke, and if you needed a smoke, they always had one for you (since they knew you’d leave ‘em an extra buck which was worth ten smokes).  They’d keep one smoldering in an ashtray at the end of the bar and take drags off it from time to time.  With shirt sleeves rolled up they’d dribble ashes on the polished oak bar, smoke rolling in the faces of the regulars, whispering a trail to the bronze tiled ceiling.

They don’t let ‘em do that no more.”

MP: Tom is a character who may or may not be living in his head.  How was your approach to writing him.

CJH: I approached him as a sane person who from time to time was forced to question whether the fundamental facts that shaped his life were real. And whether deep down he wanted them to be real.  Or if he had the power to decide.

MP: Do you consider him a hero, anti-hero, or something else?

CJH: I can’t consider Tom a hero, you know, because of all the arson and murder and whatnot, but I think he sees himself as a hero.  He wouldn’t want to be considered an anti-hero.  I don’t think people are good or bad.  They just are.  Whether they come across as a hero or not is a matter of what story is being told and who’s telling it.  I like writing characters that we are conflicted about. That has led to some criticism that sometimes my protagonists are too unlikable.  But I think we like Tom, and I’m good with that.

MP: This is a different look at the American West.  What did you want to convey about the place?

CJH: It’s a good question and hard thing to explain.  In many ways I wrote the book to show what the West looks like through they eyes of the people eking it out on the margins.  I wanted the West to be a character in the book.  The things that happened to the characters couldn’t have happened anywhere else.  Stark, rugged, beautiful, harsh, the vast open spaces and unrelenting danger ever present in daily life.  Modern society is never going to imprint neatly on that landscape.  Today the West is full of contradictions, anachronisms. It is still a place of outlaws and individualists.  But it is only getting harder for them as the march toward progress continues.  I think that’s why the title fits the theme — what’s the West coming to when you can’t even smoke in a bar anymore?  Of course the irony for me is that I quit smoking years back after I gave up bartending and now I can’t even imagine being able to smoke in a bar.  It seems barbaric.  I travel a lot, and I still get a kick out of the few places where it’s somehow not yet outlawed, like Oklahoma and Montana. That’s freedom, man.

MP: What can you tell us about your upcoming book?

CJH: The Hundred Mile View is scheduled for release in 2016.  It’s set on the Navajo Nation and features plenty of murder, meth, and moral ambiguity.  What else would you expect?

Copies of The Last of the Smoking Bartenders are available on our shelves and through special order here at the store or over the phone. Come by Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s on Wednesday, July 22nd at 7 PM for readings from CJ Howell, Brad Parks, Jesse Sublett, and Andrew Hilbert. Copies of each author’s latest will be on sale at Opal Divine’s for signing purposes after the speaking portion finishes up.

Murder In The Afternoon Book Club To Discuss: THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins

woman in white

The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 PM on BookPeople’s third floor. Please join us Tuesday, July 21st, as we discuss The Woman In White, by Wilkie Collins. 


On Tuesday, July 21st, at 2 PM, the Murder In The Afternoon Book Club takes on a classic – Wilkie Collins’ The Woman In White, a domestic thriller that enjoyed sensational popularity upon its serialization in 1860 and has remained in print continuously since its first publication. The Woman In White is considered by some to be one the earliest detective novels, and as I delve deeper into the history of mystery, I find myself compelled to take on the classics.

A coworker initially sparked my interest in this novel when she described reading Wilkie Collins as how people got their thrills and chills before the era of television (I paraphrase). The plot may be thrilling, but the novel earned just as many accolades for its unusual structure. The Woman In White, like Rashoman, is told from several different perspectives, including by some less-than-trustworthy narrators, and only through piecing together all the perspectives does the story’s mystery gradually come into focus.

The novel begins from the perspective of Walter Hartright, the novel’s hero, hired to teach the gentle art of watercolor to some lonely young ladies on an isolated estate. Hartright feels inexplicably uneasy when he is first offered the commission, but the lucrative returns and respectable nature of the job compels Walter to accept the position. The night before his departure, he encounters a ghostly woman, dressed all in white, and not in full possession of her faculties, and points her the way to London. She thanks him for his help, and mentions her childhood stay on the estate that Walter is soon to travel to for his employment as watercolor instructor. Upon his arrival to his new lodgings, and with the aid of the sensible and charming  Miss Halcomb, Walter carries on an investigation into the mysterious figure of “the woman in white” and the wrongs done to her.

Wilkie Collins is a master of the slow reveal, and The Woman In White is as much atmospheric, psychological horror as it is a domestic thriller or amateur detective novel. Detective novels, like science fiction, tend to reveal much about our societal worries at the time of publication. The Woman In White, in perfect keeping with this statement, goes down the list of 19th century paranoias, including fear of a changing, industrializing society; fear of wrongful incarceration or commitment to a mental asylum; fear of even the most minute slip in status. Collins’ characters also suffer from the harder-to-define fear of accepting a position, marriage, or alliance that fits the notions of Victorian propriety, yet carries with it the danger of isolation, exploitation, and temptation.

The Woman In White, at over 500 pages long, may seem a bit daunting for a book club. The Woman in White does not have quite the level of suspense as, say, an episode of 24, but that doesn’t mean the pages don’t fly by as the narrative  takes hold. In fact, The Woman In White’s lengthy time in print and its status as classic serve as proof that even to modern readers, brevity is not always synonymous with edge-of-your-seat suspense.

Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club members receive 10% off of their purchase of their monthly book club title.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Seventh Street Books Editorial Director Dan Mayer

seventh street books


Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, is one of our favorite publishers of late. We even did a special panel with three of their authors in June, including Terry Shames, Mark Pryor, and James Ziskin. We caught up with one of the brains behind the outfit, Editorial Director Dan Mayer, to talk about their books and direction for the future.


MysteryPeople: Describe your goal for every Seventh Street Book.

Dan Mayer: Obviously, I’m hoping every title is successful and finds an audience. I’d love for each book to bring something special to the genre. And I also want the publishing experience to be a good one for all the authors.

MP: You are mainly known for introducing new writers to the genre. What attracts you to fresh talent?

DM: I think it’s a combination of luck and timing. We are a relatively new imprint, so it’s not that unusual that many of our authors are just beginning their writing careers. And as a small publisher, I don’t have some of the pressures that an editorial director might feel at one of the big publishing houses. I understand that it may take more than a couple books for the author to find an audience, and I’m willing to wait it out.

MP: You also show that a paperback original can be just as high quality as hardback. Why is that the format to go with for you?

DM: It’s our publishing model to publish in trade paperback. I also believe that it’s a format that has a longer shelf life than hardcovers or mass markets.

MP: Which author has surprised you the most with their work?

DM: I’m fortunate that all the authors I work with are incredibly talented. Still, it’s exciting when an author you’ve published and come to know surprises you with a change in direction. For example, we’ve published Mark Pryor since our very first release, The Bookseller, and even though we’re five books in to the Hugo Marston series, Mark brought us this incredible, totally different standalone—Hollow Man—a most welcome surprise.

MP: Is there a sub-genre in crime fiction that you’d like to have for Seventh Street that you don’t already have?

DM: I have a whole list of things I’d like to pick up: a cozy series, a historical series set during World War II, a British crime series . . . I could go on and on. Interestingly, I’ve had a few conversations recently with editors from other houses, and we’ve all agreed that we want to see more female protagonists.

MP: What are some things readers can look forward to from Seventh Street in the future?

DM: Well, we will continue to nurture and develop the authors and books we already have in our catalog. Writers like Mark Pryor, Terry Shames, James Ziskin, Lori Rader-Day, and Allen Eskens—to name just a few (and honestly, not naming all of our authors is very hard for me!)—have incredibly bright futures ahead of them. We’re proud to be part of this journey with them.

We will continue to bring new writers into our fold. This fall we have a number of new additions to the Seventh Street family—Stephanie Gayle (Idyll Threats), Jennifer Kincheloe (The Secret Life of Anna Blanc), Robert Palmer (The Survivors)—and each book has a unique premise and setting that has excited the bookselling community.

Crime Fiction Friday: STRAY BULLETS by Jerry Bloomfield

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Last month’s Beat To A Pulp story, “Stray Bullets” by Jerry Bloomfield, sparked discussion among quite a few authors, who also made sure to share the story online. In a very concise way Bloomfield shows the build up of pain that can cause vengeance. Let’s hope this is the first step in a long journey of work from this new author.

“Stray Bullets” by Jerry Bloomfield

“Just a stray bullet they said. One of them things. Freak accident. Some hunter took a shot at a deer, bullet went over a hill and bam. Ended his world. And the cops not doing a goddamned thing about it. A five-year-old boy, smart as a f***ing whip, dead and all he gets is a, We’re sorry about your loss.

Shit. He weren’t no goddamned idiot. He knew what the deal was. Juanita, that worked up there in the county clerk’s office, she done told him who the shooter was. And because it was the judge executive’s boy, nothing would be done. The boy was a football star, here where sports was king, and a straight ‘A’ student. Why ruin his life, his future, not to mention his daddy’s shot at being state senator? Over some piece of trailer trash? They f***ing breed like rabbits anyhow. Pop out another soon enough. Oh, yeah. He knows what they say, up there at the police station and over in the sheriff’s office. State police, mayor, game warden, all them f***ing a**holes.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Brian Panowich

Brian Panowich joins us Saturday, July 11, at 5 PM on BookPeople’s second floor for a Happy Hour celebrating the release of his debut novel, Bull Mountain. Panowich is joined by special musical guests The Dan Adams Band, who will perform a song written for the novel.


Interview by Scott M.

Brian Panowich’s Bull Mountain is an attention-getting debut dealing with two brothers on the opposite sides of the law. Brian will be joining us for a discussion and signing of the book on July 11th and was kind enough to accept this opening barrage of questions.

MysteryPeople: Family plays a big part in Bull Mountain. What did you want to explore with that idea?

Brian Panowich: Mainly that family, not only relationships between fathers and sons, but mothers and daughters, siblings, and even husbands and wives inform your every decision, whether you’re aware of it or not. It’s the strongest bond imaginable between any group of people, and simply deciding to not be a part of where or who you come from isn’t nearly as easy as it may seem. Even that decision was informed by blood. Especially in the South, where a family’s heritage is entrenched into the land they live on. A family goes way beyond just its name and traditions, and this book digs deep into how those bonds can blur the lines–and in some cases completely erase them–between what is considered good and evil. What one person thinks of as evil, may very well be what another thinks is the right thing to do by their family.

MP: Does family take on something different in the place you write about?

BW: I think so. I’m an army brat and my small family of four was like a satellite circling the rest of my relatives who were spread out all over the country, but after meeting my wife, a native of North Georgia, and setting root here, I was fascinated at how interconnected her kin were with the area they’re from. The sense of pride and belonging to something that is just for them is overwhelming in the South. It’s unlike anywhere else I’d ever lived. The idea of leaving, or not being a part of the place they love isn’t even an option to them. Home is absolutely not where you hang your hat. Home is the familiar dirt and land that has sustained them for decades. As a kid, I never lived anywhere for more than two years at a time. I’m not in touch with a single person I’ve ever known from the years before my father retired in Georgia, and just the idea that my wife not only knows, but still remains close, to people that were born in the same room of the same small county hospital as her is mind-bending to me.

MP: Clayton Burroughs is such an interesting character in the sense, he has the possibility of going any direction. What was the trick to writing him?

BW: The appeal of writing Clayton was that the conflict he struggled with was never about him wanting to “do the right thing” or “to right his family’s wrongs”. His internal conflict came from knowing he wasn’t cut from the same cloth the rest of the Burroughs clan were. He knew he was a disappointment to his father. He knew he couldn’t do the things his brothers were capable of doing to preserve their way of life. He’d known it since he was a boy, and that guilt of not living up to the Burroughs name forced him to make hard decisions that would eventually put him at odds with the same people that reared him. I don’t even think Clayton was drawn to the law as a way to make amends for his family’s sins as much as it was a way of sticking it to them, like getting the last word. That non-allegiance to either side made him unpredictable and volatile, and that’s the kind of character I wanted to write.

MP: This being a debut, did you draw from any influences?

BW: I have no doubt I incorporated a ton of what I’ve learned by reading other people into this book. I don’t think it’s possible not to. Elmore Leonard’s books taught me so much about dialogue, world-building, and how to make every word on the page necessary, so I’m sure my love of his books will come through to his readers, and the epic scale that I wanted to convey in Bull Mountain is clearly drawn from my love of Cormac McCarthy and James Ellroy. I’m sure there is a lot more of my influences in there too, folded and stirred into what I wanted this book to be, but the end result I think is uniquely me, and uniquely Georgian. I also think as long as I continue to read great writers, great writers will continue to help me refine my own voice.

MP: Each of your chapters come off as these well-crafted short stories. How did you approach constructing them?

BW: I knew the first chapter and the last before I even sat down to write the first word. I made a one page outline committing a sentence or two to each chapter in between those bookends as a road map, and then I just let the rest of it unfold as I went. If I thought the story needed to go back in time, I wrote a chapter from that era. If I thought someone else I hadn’t originally planned to expand on had more to say, I wrote a chapter from that person’s perspective. I really didn’t follow any rules. I wasn’t even sure what the rules were. I’m still not sure I know now. I just wrote the story the way I thought it should be told. Not a lot of the process was spent on compiling it them right way. Of course my agent, Nat Sobel, and my editor, Sara Minnich, came on board and helped streamline the narrative and flesh out some back story and I’m incredibly grateful to have them on my team. They are the best there is in this business.

MP: You play with time in the book, dipping into the past several times. Other than allowing reveals to strike at the right moment, what else did the non-linear method allow for the story?

BW: Believe it or not, the only way I was able to allow the reveals in the book to unfold the way I wanted them to was to write it the way I did. Before I sent the book off to my agent, as an experiment, I took all the chapters and rearranged them in a linear sequence according to the timeline and it was a completely different book. It wasn’t the book I wanted to put out there. I wasn’t sure if the format I decided to go with would work or not, but it felt like the only way to get across to people what I needed them to know about the Burroughs family. So I went with my gut, and sent it as I originally wrote it. I’ve read a few complaints from a few reviewers about it being a tough book to follow, but I’ve had a lot more people say it’s one of the book’s strengths. I suppose we’ll see.

MP: It seems like you are the latest in a wave of rural noir authors. What makes the South a great setting to explore the darker side of our nature?

BW: I think the vast amount of unexplored terrain and endless string of backroads that lead to unknown places lend itself to that mystique. Violence and darkness have almost come to be expected in an urban setting, it’s par for the course, but it’s entirely different in the woods. Where the rules don’t apply. Things could be fine at the end of that dirt road, or it may get very ugly, very quickly. It’s beautiful here for sure, but at the same time can be fierce on a moment’s notice. That balance makes a remarkable setting to tell stories like this one, and it’s nice to see the South being represented by all these amazing authors I have the honor of being bunched in with.

I think for the most part, the south gets a bad rap. Considering the way TV (especially reality TV) and film have perpetuated the myth of the toothless hillbilly over the years, it was important to me that Bull Mountain showed the world that wasn’t the case. Not even close. The Burroughs clan may be fictional, but the folks that reside in the foothills of North Georgia have been in the same game other places like Kentucky and Virginia are famous for…without ever getting caught. They have managed to stay under the radar for decades, because family was the point. Not the fame. And I think that speaks volumes about the intelligence and strength it must have taken to pull it off.


You can find copies of Bull Mountain on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Click here for additional event information.

MysteryPeople Review: BULL MOUNTAIN by Brian Panowich

bull mountainBrian Panowich joins us Saturday, July 11, at 5 PM on BookPeople’s second floor for a Happy Hour celebrating the release of his debut novel, Bull Mountain. Panowich is joined by special musical guests The Dan Adams Band, who will perform a song written for the novel.


Post by Scott M.

Rural noir seems to be the debut genre for 2015. David Joy’s Where All Light Tends To Go and Jamie Kornegay’s Soil have already earned much deserved accolades with their darker sides of North Carolina and Mississippi. Now we go to Georgia with Brian Panowich’s Bull Mountain.

The story centers on the relationship of two brothers. Halford Burroughs keeps his family’s outlaw tradition, lording over a small meth empire that started with moonshine generations ago. His brother, Clayton, is the white sheep of the family, becoming sheriff in an adjacent county.

“Bull Mountain is a brilliant piece of brutal poetry.”

An ATF agent tells Clayton that he’s after a biker gang Halford is doing business with and will give his brother complete immunity if he flips. Wanting to save his remaining family member (his other brother recently shot down in a standoff with the law). Clayton treks up Bull Mountain to meet up with his brother, getting himself up for one hell of a fall.

Brian Panowich’s writing is a great example of craft meeting art. He constructs each chapter as its own well-crafted short story, often moving deftly and clearly between past and present. He expands past Clayton and Halford’s relationship to look at different shades of family and ideas of honor tied to it. The result in a narrative mosaic that builds in drama and emotional punch, the clearer the full picture becomes.

Bull Mountain is a brilliant piece of brutal poetry. It takes its characters on their own terms and allows us to understand them and the cycle of violence they generate. Pretty much cemented my belief that rural noir genre has many unseen places to go.


You can find copies of Bull Mountain on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.