By: Taylor Brown
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 3/20/2018
My Rating: 5 Stars
“A fresh, authentic, and eloquent new voice in American fiction.” - Robert Morgan, New York Times bestselling author of Gap Creek
In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.
Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood - a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.
In the mill town at the foot of the mountains - a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing - Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.
With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.
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“Brown (The River of Kings, 2017) immerses the reader in the mountain landscape, such that one can feel the rich soil as Granny May digs for roots, listen to nocturnal howls carried on the crisp night air, and smell the pig roasting over the fire. Brown’s dialogue, too, is magical, capturing the local idioms and cadences and rendering them musical. Ultimately, though, it’s the characters, so wonderfully vibrant and alive in their all-too-human variety—scared, tightly wound, angry, damaged, yet resourceful and resilient, some honorable, some not—that demonstrate Brown’s prodigious talent. Brown has quickly established himself in the top echelon of Southern writers, and his latest will please readers of Wiley Cash and Ron Rash.” –Booklist
“Powerful…explosive…Brown’s lyrical prose invokes a verdant landscape whose rich past is woven into its roots and people; their dependence on the land and respect for its great mysteries are palpable. This tale of loyalty and retribution will linger with readers.” –Publishers Weekly
“In his third novel (after River of Kings), critically acclaimed novelist Brown gazes unflinchingly at the Howl Mountain community of 1950s North Carolina…Not to be missed, this bold, dark, gritty novel is another coup for Brown, whose lyrical descriptions of the landscape only add to the captivating story of indomitable but isolated folks bound by folklore, tradition, and a hardscrabble life.” –Library Journal
About the Author
Taylor Brown was born on the Georgia coast. He is the author of a short story collection, IN THE SEASON OF BLOOD AND GOLD, as well as two novels: FALLEN LAND and THE RIVER OF KINGS (St. Martin's Press). He is the recipient of a Montana Prize in Fiction, and a finalist for the Press 53 Open Awards, Machigonne Fiction Contest, and Doris Betts Fiction Prize. His work has been short-listed for Best American Mystery Stories, and his short fiction has appeared in The Rumpus, Chautuaqua, Southwest Review, and many others. He lives in Wilmington, NC, where he edits the cafe racer blog BikeBound.com. You can find him at www.taylorbrownfiction.com.