A ferocious debut that puts Frank Bill's southern Indiana on the literary map next to Cormac McCarthy's eastern Tennessee and Daniel Woodrell's Missouri Ozarks
Crimes in Southern Indiana is the most blistering, vivid, flat-out fearless debut to plow into American literature in recent years. Frank Bill delivers what is both a wake-up call and a gut punch. Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket fences have given way to meth labs, backwoods gunrunners, and bare-knuckle brawling.
Bill's people are pressed to the brink—and beyond. There is Scoot McCutchen, whose beloved wife falls terminally ill, leaving him with nothing to live for—which doesn't quite explain why he brutally murders her and her doctor and flees, or why, after years of running, he decides to turn himself in. In the title story, a man who has devolved from breeding hounds for hunting to training them for dog-fighting crosses paths with a Salvadoran gangbanger tasked with taking over the rural drug trade, but who mostly wants to grow old in peace. As Crimes in Southern Indiana unfolds, we witness the unspeakable, yet are compelled to find sympathy for the depraved.
Bill's southern Indiana is haunted with the deep, authentic sense of place that recalls the best of Southern fiction, but the interconnected stories bristle with the urban energy of a Chuck Palahniuk or a latter-day Nelson Algren and rush with the slam-bang plotting of pulp-noir crime writing à la Jim Thompson. Bill's prose is gritty yet literary, shocking, and impossible to put down. A dark evocation of the survivalist spirit of the working class, this is a brilliant debut by an important new voice.
Bill's resolutely unsentimental debut collection lays bare working-class strife, exposing atrocities that are at once violently harrowing and desperately human. Pitchfork and Darnel Crase, the two brothers in "Hill Clan Cross," exact cruel revenge on their young kinfolk who've been busy skimming their drugs to sell on the side. In "These Old Bones," the boys' mother murders their father once she discovers he'd pimped out their granddaughter, Audry. Elsewhere, in "Officer Down (Tweakers)," Moon, a police officer whose wife leaves him, kills his estranged best friend who'd become involved in the meth business; in a companion story, menace waits for Ina, his cheating wife. The title story features more downtrodden, reckless men who bet on dogfights with embittered Afghanistan war veterans, then lose and commit even more desperate acts. Readers who enjoy coal-black rural noir are in for a sadistic treat: flowing like awful mud and written in pulpy style, these stories paint a grisly portrait of the author's homeland. You might want to have your brass knuckles handy when reading.