It was a fire that could be seen for miles, a fire that split the community, a fire that turned families on each other, a fire that it is still hard to get a straight answer about. A quarter of a century ago, someone held a match to Greenwood, Texas's cotton. Stephen Graham Jones was twelve that year. What he remembers best, what's stuck with him all this time, is that nobody ever came forward to claim that destruction.
And nobody was ever caught.
Greenwood just leaned forward into next year's work, and the year after that's, pretending that the fire had never happened. But it had. This fire, it didn't start twenty-five years ago. It had been smouldering for years by then. And everybody knew it. Getting them to say anything about it's another thing, though. Now Stephen is going back. His first time since high school, and maybe his last. For answers, for closure, for the people who can't go back. The ones who never got to leave.
Part mystery, part memoir, Growing Up Dead in Texas is packed with more secrets than your average graveyard. Stephen Graham Jones' breakout novel is a story about farming. A story about Texas. A story about finally standing up from the dead and walking away Stephen Graham Jones is the author of eight novels and two collections. He's been a Shirley Jackson Award finalist three times, a Bram Stoker Award finalist, a Black Quill Award finalist, an International Horror Guild finalist, a Colorado Book Award Finalist, a Texas Monthly Book Selection, and has won the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Fiction and the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction. He lives in Boulder, CO, where he teaches creative writing.
Jones combines memoir and mystery in his latest novel (after Zombie Bake-Off), returning to his hometown of Greenwood, Texas, to explore a decades-old crime that would rend a community irrevocably asunder. In 1985, when the author is just 12 years old, a suspicious fire decimates Greenwood's cotton crop and threatens many of the townsfolk's livelihoods. Local teen Tommy Moore is caught in the field with an incriminatingly lit cigarette, and his savage beating by a descendant of the community's largest landowning family kicks off a tragic cycle of retribution that exacerbates longstanding conflicts amongst the people of Greenwood. Drawing from memory, interviews, and town legend, Jones acknowledges that he's an unreliable narrator, and that his story is "piecemeal, secondhand, polluted, cleaned-up then tore down." The book is an ambitious hybrid of fact and myth, past and present, that calls into question the nature of truth itself. While its sprawling web of characters and story lines may seem convoluted at times, the novel is unified by Jones's rhythmic prose and his evident compassion for his former neighbors' tragedies both personal and pastoral.