Clyde Twitty could use a break, a helping hand. He’s a young man lost in his finances, in his family and stuck deep within the fast-settling muck of a dwindling rural Missouri town that has, in every way, given up hope. The hand that reaches down, pulls him up, and leads him forward is that of Jay Smalls, a fiercely charismatic patriarch, a man who exerts a kind of gravitational force and who breeds purpose in those who get caught in it. Un-rattled by the increasingly sinister racial undertones of Jay Smalls and his posse, and desperate to look forward and not down, for once in his life, Clyde hardly stumbles when the path he’s being ushered down takes a dark and irrevocable turn.
In this thrilling debut novel equal parts satire and morality play Harvkey shines a sharp light on the dark and radical underbelly of the floundering American Midwest. As he leads us down the violent spiral of a desperate youth, he explores with unflinching acuity the ugly nature of hate, the untempered force of personality, and the sometimes horrific power of having someone believe in you.
In his debut novel, former PW deputy reviews editor Harvkey heats incendiary current events to their boiling point, drawing on his own upbringing in meth-ridden northwest Missouri and his black belt in Kyokushin, a form of karate, to examine a young man's life in Winter's Bone territory. Twenty-year-old Clyde Twitty who landed a factory job while still in high school, only to lose it a few years later has a lot on his mind: his gig driving cars to auction brings in only $40 per week; his mother depends on Clyde's support to pay her mortgage and maintain her hairstyling business, and he helps his handicapped uncle as well; and his best friend is in Nashville, a world away from Clyde's hometown of Strasburg, Mo. But Clyde suddenly discovers a sense of purpose when he meets Jay Smalls, a self-styled karate warrior, whose stomach is as hard as his ultra-right-wing political beliefs. Smalls and his family including his daughter, underage seductress Tina make short work of indoctrinating Clyde. Soon his "training" pulls him into the so-called patriot movement: he attends Aryan conventions, reads literature like The Turner Diaries, and declares himself, in far-right legal parlance, a "non-resident, non-foreigner stranger to the current state of the forum." Harvkey skillfully shows how Clyde's conscience gives way to his desire for meaningful work and connections; as they say, idle hands are the devil's workshop. As a conspiracy with nation-rocking potential takes shape, Harvkey pushes this eerie, engrossing satire to its bloody conclusion. It's a provocative, unflinching look at the hate that poverty has fomented in places like Strasburg "the town the American Dream forgot."