Friday Night Lights gone dark with Southern Gothic; Eli Cranor delivers a powerful noir that will appeal to fans of Wiley Cash and Megan Abbott.
In Denton, Arkansas, the fate of the high school football team rests on the shoulders of Billy Lowe, a volatile but talented running back. Billy comes from an extremely troubled home: a trailer park where he is terrorized by his unstable mother’s abusive boyfriend. Billy takes out his anger on the field, but when his savagery crosses a line, he faces suspension.
Without Billy Lowe, the Denton Pirates can kiss their playoff bid goodbye. But the head coach, Trent Powers, who just moved from California with his wife and two children for this job, has more than just his paycheck riding on Billy’s bad behavior. As a born-again Christian, Trent feels a divine calling to save Billy—save him from his circumstances, and save his soul.
Then Billy’s abuser is found murdered in the Lowe family trailer, and all evidence points toward Billy. Now nothing can stop an explosive chain of violence that could tear the whole town apart on the eve of the playoffs.
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Trent Powers, the hero of Cranor's arresting debut, and his family move from California to Denton, Ark., where Trent has been hired to coach the Pirates, the town's high school football team. The Pirates make it to the playoffs, though things sour when star player Billy Lowe, who shares a trailer with his single mother, hits rich kid Austin Murphy too hard in practice, putting the coach in a bind on whether to play or bench Billy and placing him at odds with his wife, who's desperate to get back to California. Meanwhile, homelife in the Lowes' trailer falls apart when Billy knocks out Travis Rodney, his mother's abusive boyfriend. The discovery of Travis's rotting body a week later raises the stakes. Cranor builds tension by shifting between third person and Billy's first-person account as the idealistic Trent contends with some powerful locals whose values are at odds with his own. Evocative prose is a plus ("Arkansas hills produce crazy like the Earth's mantle produces diamonds: enough heat and pressure to make all things hard"). Readers will be curious to see what Cranor does next. Agent: Alexa Stark, Trident Media.
Looking forward to more from this author.