From the author of A Slight Trick of the Mind: A “hybrid of Stephen King and Jim Thompson” that follows the thoughts of a troubled Texas lawman (Booklist).
Branches is a novel at once cautionary and starkly provocative, set in the “gnarled hide of West Texas” near the end of the 20th century. Sheriff Branches finds himself returning to his childhood home, revisiting his bleak childhood while contemplating a series of mysterious dog poisonings in his small community. In discovering the painful truth behind the crimes, he must also delve into his own violent past. As both a boy and a man, Branches embodies the very arbitrary nature of Justice; he roams through a grim landscape where nothing is as it appears, taking the reader headlong toward an unsettling, horrific resolution.
A smalltown West Texas sheriff is the antihero of Cullin's quietly chilling short novel in verse. Pacing the desolate, burnt-out ruins of his boyhood home 22 miles from town, Sheriff Branches (a minor character in Cullin's previous novel, Whompyjawed), catalogues his misdeeds and probes his conscience. On the surface, he is a solid family man, devoted to his wife, Mary, and looking forward to a cozy evening at home eating beef burritos and watching America's Funniest Home Videos. But as Cullin reveals almost immediately, Branches has killed his stepson, Danny, pushing the teenager down a well on the deserted property and emptying his Colt Trooper MK III after him. At the bottom of the well, the decaying corpses of two Mexicans already bear witness to Branches's homicidal instincts. Danny, a budding neo-Nazi, may have committed a crime of sorts. But Branches's other victims--and their numbers multiply--are guilty of little more than crossing the sheriff's path. Nevertheless, Branches remains a remarkably sympathetic character, the balladlike strains of his narration counteracting the grisliness of his actions. Cullin is adept at blending the affable and the sinister, and while this hybrid effort is just a simple song in a minor key, as such it succeeds admirably. Film rights to William Finnegan.