Jake Hinkson is an author deserving of more attention. A cross between Jim Thompson and Flannery O’Connor, his people do bad things while often negotiating their religious faith. Recently landing on the prestigious Pegasus imprint with one of his finest, Dry County
, he may finally get his due.
The dilemma of Richard Weatherford, an upper-middle class teacher in the Arkansas Ozarks, drives the story. He is being blackmailed by Gary Doane, a parishioner he had an affair with, for twenty-thousand dollars. In an attempt to get the money, he tells Brian Harten, a local screw up who wants to open a liquor store, that he will move his vote on the town council on its dry law for the cash. In pursuit of his dream, Brian decides to rob his boss, who owns the bar outside the county line and has his fingers in a few questionable pies. All get caught up in a chain of violence and black comedy including the minister’s wife and Gary’s girlfriend, all over an Easter weekend, that leads leads to one of the best last lines this year.
Hinkson follows these characters at a perfect distance. We’re close enough to feel their desperation and understand their thought process, but never so intimate to completely stand with or predict them. It allows for the satire to never play broad. We are also able to easily switch sympathies when more is understood. Like a good Elmore Leonard character, you know them, but never know where they are going.
Not only does the story tie them together through plot, but through the idea of faith. Hinkson not only deals with religious faith faith, but faith in love, money, politics (it takes place during the 2016 Primaries) and family. Much of the characters’ actions are driven by their beliefs in at least one and the justifications they use when that faith is challenged.
Dry County will hopefully earn Jake Hinkson the fanbase he deserves. He’s subtle in his preciseness, revealing an evil that doesn’t seem so threatening at first glance. By the time we’ve reached that last line, we’ve stared straight in the eye, and maybe chuckled.
You can purchase Dry County at BookPeople in-store and online now.
On August 31st we had a fun panel on BookPeople’s third floor, “Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames: A Discussion Of Hard Boiled Fiction” to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Stark House Press and the recent release of their collection The Best Of Manhunt.
Participants were the anthology’s editor, John Vorzimmer, author and crime fiction historian Rick Ollerman, author and owner of the Boss Light bookstore, Tim Bryant, and authors Josh Stallings and Joe R. Lansdale. We may have confused as much as enlightened, but some knowledge was dropped and it was very entertaining. You can replay this fantastic discussion here now!
You can still grab a signed copy of The Best of Manhunt at BookPeople in-store and online now.
Heaven, My Home
is the second book to feature Attica Locke’s black Texas Ranger, Darren Matthews. She has created a character who takes us in a very personal way through black Texas culture and examine the American tange and tension of modern race relations. In this second book, Locke shows how those issues are tied together over centuries.
The story takes place during the holidays after the 2016 election. Matthews is riding the desk and the eye of a D.A. due to the events from the first novel, Bluebird, Bluebird. To hopefully get out of this jam, he takes the case of a missing nine-year old son of an Aryan Brotherhood member in prison for murder, The search takes him to a town whose main business is giving tourists a taste of of the antebellum south. As Matthews digs deeper, he discovers ties to the boy’s family that had to do with the dark side of that history as well as getting a black man accused of killing the boy into further danger.
Fans of James Lee Burke should take to these books. Matthews’ Texas past hold on to him as hard as Robicheaux’s Louisiana history. However, with an African American hero, the canvas is bigger and allows for more depth. A relationship with a friend or order from a superior contains different shades and meanings. Locke examines these complexities in the eyes of a complex hero who often has to question if he’s on the right side, even if he is on the side of the law.
Locke and Ranger Matthews deliver on the promise of Bluebird, Bluebird and then some. It looks at race relations through Texas culture both past and present. After you finish reading , you may wonder if our country is less racist or that if racism learned to be more nuanced.
Both Bluebird, Bluebird and Heaven, My Home are available at BookPeople in-store and online.
We’re excited to have John Vercher at BookPeople this weekend on September 22nd at 2PM with Jamie Mason. His debut novel, Three-Fifths is a novel that explores race, friendship, and identity against a working class backdrop. For a taste of his talent you can read this piece of flash fiction published in Akashics’ site, Mondays Are Murder.
Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things is an of-the-moment take on one of the world’s greatest unsolved art heists. Fourteen-year old Carly Liddell is walking home from school when she notices a young man following her. She isn’t fast enough to evade him, and he pushes his way inside her home. But Carly’s a badass, and she fights back hard—hard enough that she leaves him out cold on the entryway floor. Carly knows that her stepfather John has installed a series of security cameras outside the front of their home, but she and her mother are surprised to learn that there is also a hidden camera inside the house. While this is a boon for Carly—the attack is caught on a video loop that quickly goes viral and leads to the apprehension of Carly’s assailant—it’s not great news for John. The interior camera has picked up a partial shot of the painting that hangs inside the entry, and it’s a painting that John would prefer remain hidden. When the video goes viral some shady characters from John’s past come looking for him and the painting, threatening to expose a past that he would prefer remain hidden.
Mason’s story was inspired by the largest unsolved art theft in history. Thirteen works of art valued at close to a half billion dollars was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and this novel explores what may have happened to one of those pieces—a lesser known work by Govaert Flinck called “Landscape With Obelisk.”
Mason takes this thoroughly unique concept and puts her masterful word-smithing to work, crafting a wholly original thriller that explores the hidden secrets in one man’s past. Mason herself has aphantasia, which means she doesn’t see images in her mind. It’s been said that people who lack one sense make up for it with enhanced abilities in other senses, and perhaps we have Mason’s aphantasia to thank for her amazing way with words–she can string words together in a uniquely evocative way. The discerning reader is in for a treat with this one–the prose is as thrilling as the plot.
Jamie Mason will be presenting The Hidden Things alongside John Vercher and his novel, Three-Fifths, on September 22nd at 2PM. They will be in conversation with Scott M., our resident Crime Fiction Coordinator
BookPeople will be hosting John Vercher and Jamie Mason on September 22nd at 2PM. Vercher’s debut novel Three-Fifths examines race and identity through the plight of Bobby Saraceno, a bi-racial young man, who witnesses a hate crime committed by his white supremacist freind. Vercher deals with these issues head on through some well fleshed out characters. Mr. Vercher was kind enough to take a few questions about the people who populate his novel.
- Which came first, the character of Bobby or the premise he is thrown in?
Bobby came first. His story has been bouncing around in my head since I was an undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh. I was a freshman when I took a course in Black Film History and had been introduced to the “tragic mulatto” and passing narratives with the film Imitation of Life, which as young mixed-race man had a significant impact on me. From there, I discovered books like Nella Larsen’s Passing, as well as more contemporary novels like Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, and wanted to create my own version of that kind of story.
- It seems that many books have difficulty depicting a character with extremely racist beliefs without falling into stereotype. How did you avoid doing that with Aaron?
No villain thinks they’re the villain—they’re the hero of their own story. Making Aaron a caricature would have made him far less interesting or terrifying. The most intimidating “bad guys,” to me, whether in books or in film, are the ones where, to our discomfort, we see some of ourselves in. I find it far more compelling to read antagonists who are not inhumanly evil, but humanly flawed—a person, that despite their terrible actions, have real feelings and connections with other people. Aaron doesn’t think he’s evil—he believes he’s justified in everything he’s done because of what’s been done to him, and he’s not afraid to hold up a mirror to those who choose to judge him—whether that be Bobby or the reader.
- What made you decide this was a story that needed to be told from multiple points of view?
It was mostly a decision based on rhythm. I love novels that switch from multiple POV’s because each section almost acts as a cliffhanger. When it’s done effectively, it takes readers up to the brink, and just when they think things are really going to kick into high gear, the author pumps the brakes. It’s almost a necessary breather, to slow things down, whether it be character development or plot, and it makes for a page-turner. I hope I was able to effectively do that in Three-Fifths.
- What made you decide to set the story during the O.J. trial?
The trial came just a few years after the L.A. Riots, and the wounds were still open. The O.J. trial so fiercely divided people along both racial and class lines, and contributed to the tension and mistrust of police officers by people of color. I was in Pittsburgh as a student at that time, so placing the story in that context helped me to place myself in the environment to sort of “look around” to tell the story and capture what I observed at that time.
- Each character in this book comes off as a complete, complex, breathing human being. How do you approach your characters when constructing them?
As a reader, I’m, drawn to literary fiction—as long as something happens. What draws me to it, though, are the fully fleshed-out characters. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick—not just what they’re thinking, but what they say, how they say it, and what motivates what and how they say these things. The best writing advice I’d ever heard was write the books you want to read, so I try to create characters that feel like I know them in real life (as pretentious as that might sound). I love Vonnegut’s notion of putting characters up a tree and then throwing rocks at them. Characters in trouble will immediately be more complex and interesting to me.
- You also demonstrate your knowledge of comic books in the book. Any super hero you’d like to write for?
Oh, man—all of them? Recently, my oldest son, while watching one of the MCU movies, asked me why there weren’t any Falcon movies. He said Iron Man and Captain America have their own movies—why not Falcon? So I’d LOVE to write a Falcon graphic novel. In addition to writing for existing characters, I recently wrote a short story that I’m going to turn into a longer work, but I haven’t decided yet if that will be another novel or a graphic novel. If there are any comic book editors out there reading—hit me up!
Don’t forget to stop by BookPeople on September 22nd at 2PM and catch John Vercher and Jamie Mason in conversation with BookPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery.