When Lawless came out at the cinema, it immediately looked the sort of film you wanted to watch, knew you should watch ... Until you heard there was a book behind it, a book about real people, larger than life, mysterious and whose story would leave you viewing lawlessness forever differently.
That's what happened with this retitling of Matt Bondurant's "The Wettest County in the World". Written in the style of Cormac McCarthy it almost has the mystical quality of a Greek tragedy. At the same time there is that gritty, almost hopeless edge to it which mimics Steinbeck. You can smell the corn as it's mashing, the shrivelled tobacco on which no hope is lavished because, at that time, it was almost guaranteed to fail, the sweat of the men eking out their existence on alcohol and adrenaline and the despair of their women who fear that nobody will survive the drought or the revenue. Or the competition. It was all a matter of which got you first. The battle between the moonshiners (a northern term) and the local police and revenue men demonstrates what we all secretly know: there is a very fine line between what is lawful and what is criminal.
Yet out of this despair and weariness come three brothers who mind their business on the wrong side of the law while still determined to do what they can for those they love.
Despite the passing of time, and the determination of the brothers not to brag of their exploits, Jack's grandson does an excellent job in bring their legend to life in a style at once imparting the violent edge on which the men lived, and the tenderness of their relationships with their loves. His style portrays scenes and interactions in a way that the film will take for granted and for that reason I'm glad I read it first. This is a book I will read again. Do I want to watch the film now? Perhaps I will, but I feel no real need to after this experience.