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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Home Of Grit
To quote Donald Ray Pollock on this: `Good Lord, where the hell did this guy come from?'

Frank Bill describes his work more succinctly and directly than I'm about to when he says at his blog, `House Of Grit', `I don't waste words, I write them.'

In `Crimes In Southern Indiana' we have a book to cherish.

Essentially a collection of short...
Published on 8 April 2012 by nigel p bird

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange...
I was on a 'roll' of reading Southern writers & selected this one. It wasn't really my favourite, a bit too brutal without much depth for me. It was atmospheric in as much it gave a the low-down on people who are born & raised in the mountians, their ways & peculiarities but as it was short-stories there wasn't enought time to get a feeling for some of the characters,...
Published 4 months ago by Lindylou


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Home Of Grit, 8 April 2012
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To quote Donald Ray Pollock on this: `Good Lord, where the hell did this guy come from?'

Frank Bill describes his work more succinctly and directly than I'm about to when he says at his blog, `House Of Grit', `I don't waste words, I write them.'

In `Crimes In Southern Indiana' we have a book to cherish.

Essentially a collection of short stories, the work grabs hold harder with each page read.

Stories overlap as characters and histories reappear in new situations, the circles becoming tighter and tighter until the lines of definition begin to blur and it begins to feel like a novel and like a work of major force.
They tell of a culture that seems completely engrained in the communities and families we get to visit. It's a culture of depth and of major contradiction, one that an outsider might feel the need to eradicate without wanting to throw out the babies with the bathwater. There's good and bad in there and they're so tangled together that there's little hope of separation.

Family loyalty and blood ties are deep-rooted. Revenge is on an eye -for-an-eye basis; better still, two eyes are taken for the one. History and economics has left the people impoverished and forgotten. War veterans pick up the pieces. Police do what they can and sometimes what they shouldn't. Children are ruled with iron-fists and belt-buckles. Need drives all, even the selling of a young girl or the delivery of a knife into a throat. Guns are as part of daily life as pieces of furniture. Hunting takes on new boundaries. Friendships are tight until they aren't. People react to survive in any way they can.

In all the snapshots shown, the centre of the event is often an act of brutality. Within a short space of time, Bill is able to explain lives and reasons and facts without ever being heavy-handed. What is clear is that black and white aren't really colours - they're illusions. There were times during the collection that I was applauding acts of immense brutality and I'll applaud the next time I read them, too.

What I love about a really good short story is the way that it can engage with feeling and with power to leave me completely bowled over. The effect of stringing a series of interwoven tales of the highest calibre is absolutely stunning on all levels (stunned by craft, plot, character, situation, imagination, heart and courage).
Frank Bill is a man who can take hold of the emotional core of a situation as if it were some winged insect, and at the end decide whether to squash it or let it go. He never shirks from difficult finales and tells things exactly as they have to be.

Miss this one and you're making a huge mistake.

Simply magnificent.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars noir as black as the water at the bottom of the Ohio River, 6 May 2012
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
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Crimes in Southern Indiana is a collection of 17 short stories all set in the area and interlinked by characters and common settings such as the Leavenworth Tavern. They are also the darkest set of country noir tales you're ever likely to read. If they were accompanied by a musical score it would be fighting banjos played by Black Sabbath. These are dark, dark stories of the rural underclass and feature murder, revenge, drugs, prostitution, rape, dog fights, bare knuckle boxing, domestic violence, incest, child abuse, mental illness, hit and runs, and immigrant gangs. Bill's tales are populated by the desperate, the needy, the greedy, the lawless, the revengeful, the hapless and the hopeless; people whose moral compass has been whacked off kilter and never reset. Across the stories, the sense of place is palpable and the characterisation excellent. There is a little unevenness in storytelling, ranging from good to outstanding, but each tale is well conceived and paced, using prose that swings at the reader in graceful arcs and wallops in the gut like an iron fist wrapped in silk. The stories might have been ruthless, joyless, bittersweet, cathartic, violent and vengeful, but they evoke a powerful, conflicting affective response of repulsion and admiration. Definitely not a book for everyone, but for those that like their noir as black as the water at the bottom of the Ohio River, this is a must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rising star, 12 Jan 2012
This is a fantastic debut collection from Frank Bill. He grabs you by the scruff of the neck & drags you through his characters own personal hells and then back again. He deals in the compromised and disenfranchised - people scrabbling under the radar, desperately scraping by. Hard hitting, and sometimes unrelenting, the whole work is shot through with dark humour - Mr Bill knows these characters, lives and breathes with them. His writing style takes a bit of getting used to, but once it clicks, it clicks and becomes natural.

If you're looking for comparisons then Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock would be closest but Frank Bills stories have more crime writing undertones (he cut his teeth by publishing online at Plots With Guns and Thuglit among others). Both write about the places and people that they know with an honesty and truth that hurts. Well worth a look
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The twigs you hear cracking out in the woods are the sounds of vengeance come home to roost., 22 Sep 2011
By 
Richard Thomas "Richard Thomas" (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
[This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown.]

When you think of places where crime lurks, locations where you should keep the car rolling through stop signs, where you never stop to ask for directions, a few names may pop into your head. Maybe you think of Detroit or East St. Louis, Baltimore or Miami. It's time to add Corydon, Indiana, to that list, as well as the entire southern part of the state.

In Frank Bill's violent, gut-wrenching, and heartfelt collection of short stories, Crimes in Southern Indiana, there is nowhere safe to hide--the criminals are happy to walk right in the front door pointing a shotgun in your face, spitting tobacco on the floor. A granddaughter is sold as a sex slave. A war veteran tries to forget the killings he committed out in the field as well as the abuse he inflicted on his family at home. Dogfights turn into moments of self-preservation and sudden morality. Family turns on itself while the police provide inadequate protection. All of this unfolds with a raw, unflinching portrayal of meth heads, delinquents, and lost souls searching for a way out. The stories are interlinked and overlapping, as it has to be in any small town, the hero in one story meeting his demise in another, the lawmaker in one tale becoming the criminal in the next.

Early on we get a strong sense of what life what must be like in Corydon and the surrounding communities. In "All the Awful" we witness the sale of Audry by her grandfather, ironically named Able, into slavery, her young flesh an easy commodity to move on the black market:

"One of the man's hands gripped Audry's wrists above her head. Forced them to the ground. She bucked her pelvis up. Wanted him off of her. The other hand groped the rounded shapes beneath her soiled wifebeater. Her eyes clasped. Held tears. The man's tobacco-stained lips and bourbon breath dragged against her neck."

Suffice it to say that Audry has a bit of spite and spirit left, unwilling to succumb to the fate that has been dealt to her. It's a quick lesson on family and the men that inhabit the town she lives in, something she'll surely never forget.

The fact that meth is a part of the lifestyle in Crimes in Southern Indiana is no shock--rural communities fall victim to the widespread drug, cheap to sell but dangerous to manufacture, explosions riddling the countryside and across the southlands. Eager to show both sides of the coin in his depiction of drug use and prosecution, Frank Bill takes on the mindset of the addict in "The Need," painting a vivid picture of an addled mind:

"Speeding into the gravel curve, Wayne lost control of the Ford Courier, stomped the gas instead of the brake. Gunned the engine and met the wilderness of elms head-on. His head split the windshield, creating warm beads down his forehead, while flashbacks of an edge separating flesh and a screaming female amped through his memory.

Blood flaked off as Wayne balled his hands into fists, remembering the need he could no longer contain."

We might be able to muster some sympathy for a man such as Wayne, if his barbaric acts earlier in the book, and still to come in this story, weren't so heinous. In fact, one of the moral dilemmas that Frank Bill presents to us is this very duality of human nature. How can someone wish death upon another while at the same time seething at the violent acts that have just been committed? It's hypocritical to condemn the same killings and brutality that eventually worm their way into your flesh and blood, your jaw clenched, temples throbbing for revenge, and justice. The plight of the vigilante is understood across these stories, even if we are constantly uncertain who is the darkest soul on the page.

This need to condemn while also striving to understand is evident in the story "The Old Mechanic." We are told of his back story, his abuse of a wife, violent and unflinching, and yet later, we see this man as a victim of the wars he fought, forever traumatized, unable to deal with his fears and emotions, lashing out at those around him. The following two examples illustrate this nauseating problem:

"Here was a time when the shell shock of war was ignored. What the repercussions of warfare did to a man's brain. The seeing, hearing, and participating. And like the war, the abusing of a woman was overlooked. People pretended it never happened. This was a time when till-death-do-us-part was an enforced rule of matrimony. When wives didn't leave their husbands. They obeyed them."

Paired with this later passage, the Old Mechanic tries to bond with his grandson, Frank, who fears and hates him, clutching his knife, ready to defend so much as a stray hand placed on his head:

"Frank is torn between not knowing the Old Mechanic and wanting to know him. He places the stories he's grown up with in the back of his mind, the cinnamon candy and Tom and Jerry, the dead dog, and remembers what his mother told him: the Old Mechanic deserves a chance.

Frank stands up and faces the Old Mechanic, places a hand on his shoulder, knowing the Old Mechanic could just be tricking him. He's not letting go of this bayonet. But he also wants to know. `Really, you really served in a real war, in World War Two? You really killed people?'"

Another lesson that we are taught is to stand up for your own and take care of whatever family business needs to be settled, over any span of time, in whatever way you deem appropriate. The death of her father, the slaughter that took place on her property, it fills Abby (and policeman Billy Hines as well) with echoes that never stop reverberating, pulling her forward on a leash that cannot be severed:

"The girl thumbed the hammer of the .45-caliber Colt. Then the safety. He thought he'd gotten away with what he'd done ten years ago. He'd been questioned. Had an alibi. Then he was forgotten when her grandfather wouldn't talk.

But when the girl swung the tin door open none of that would matter. Because she was carrying on his wisdom. And watching from the four-by-four, Billy Hines could forgive himself and her grandfather could rest in peace after his granddaughter pulled the trigger, just as he had that night ten years ago, until the clip was empty."

With Crimes in Southern Indiana, we bear witness to a series of tragedies that snowball across the crossroads of America, one minute struggling to digest the atrocities that have been revealed, the next minute applauding the vicious retribution that is dealt out with no remorse. By forcing us to be a part of these events, and this community, Bill pulls us into a web of complicated family dynamics, laws that hold no value, and an entrepreneurial attitude that can only be called survival. Revealing vivid details, visceral language and an honesty that cannot be denied, Frank Bill has left a stained and dog-eared diary behind for those that are brave enough to open it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard lives and deaths in Southern Indiana, 10 Mar 2013
I found this book in my local library, a writer I had never heard of writing about an area I was unfamiliar with, I decided to take a chance. I am delighted to say this is one of the best books I have read in the past year! I'm a big fan of short stories and this series of stories, often featuring the same characters was difficult to put down. Bill goes straight for the jugular with the first story `Hill clan cross', at barely eleven pages it can be read quickly but like the best short stories, the memory remains long after. Two of the characters reappear in the next story, `These old bones' which I found both brilliant and harrowing. Bill's characters die brutally and regularly, some by spouses and relatives but often by the arbitrary hand of a stranger, there are few heroes as men and women seek to keep their heads above water in a recession hit America. Drugs, bare knuckle boxing and dog fighting are portrayed realistically and without the need to glamorise a life lived hard.

There isn't a single weak story in this collection, which is a rarity in short story collections. Stories such as `The old mechanic', `The need' and `a rabbit in the lettuce patch' were standouts along with the stories already listed. There is a grit and visceral energy to this collection, you feel like you are eavesdropping into the violent often homicidal world that Bill shows us, his characters are plausible and despite the violence it never stops being realistic.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in good writing regardless of the genre or format. Frank Bill deserves to known far wider than the confines of Southern Indiana, the great American novel could one day come from this man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dirt Prose, 29 Nov 2012
In this collection of short stories Mr Bill kicks you in the face with his dirt prose then cracks you over the head with a big helping of desperation and despair. It took me two goes to get through these gangster gothic stories as I found very little in the way of redemption or humour, but it's well worth the ride. I look forward to more from Mr. Bill
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Perfection, 8 July 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Frank Bill's debut book is a collection of short stories, all of which are interconnected, either by characters, locations or incidents. The writing gives you clear and crisp descriptions that build up scenes that leap off the page. These noir stories are not pleasant, this is a book of the lows of life. Whether it is a normal crime to domestic violence and other things that are kept quiet, to feuds and mental illness, this book holds you throughout.

The characters and situations feel real and you are drawn into the lives of them all as you read these tales. One story even has a ghost, and there is some macabre black comedy here as well, but this isn't a pleasant read, you are taken to the grittiest and darkest places that a person can go.

The quality of writing here is exceptional and Frank Bill is sure to be a name that will become much better known over time. If you love your stories bleak and dark, but also real, then this book is for you. The writing merges what would be pulp with literary fiction and this book should be on your bookshelf if you love great writing, and noir.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is as gritty and sandpaper, literally..., 21 Sep 2011
I'd just finished reading Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs when I started reading a lot of Twitter posts talking about a kick ass collection of stories. My lack of impulse control did me a favour and convinced me to buy it now. Bugger! The book is not released in the UK for about four years (months but I have little patience) and the UK cover doesn't appeal to me as much. Over to Amazon.com I go. After adding international four week shipping it works out less cash than buying the UK version anyway. That is a result. It gets better though. Those lovely Amazon pixies managed to row my book across the pond in under two weeks.

Opening my parcel the first thing I notice is how gritty the cover is. I don't just mean the evocative image of the burned out car, I mean the cover feels like sandpaper. Is this deliberate? Is this an omen? I opened this puppy with the excitement of a five year old at Christmas.

BANG! It is not often that I swear out loud whilst reading the first page of a book. There is no easing you in, setting the scene, putting on those comfy slippers. From the first moment this book hits you right between the eyes like a nine iron. By the end of the first story I was stunned. This is a seriously hardcore work of art. Some of the topics and themes covered go beyond nasty and into the realms uncomfortably terrible.

I read a one star review of this book on Amazon that would have made me want to buy it if I didn't have it already. It talked about only enjoying this if you wanted to read lots of descriptions of bruises and cuts. Personally I prefer that to repetition. I would personally recommend reading this book in several sittings rather than in one or two long sessions.

I've recently started trying to write short stories myself recently and I can quite safely say that if I ever manage to pack anywhere near the amount of emotion that I found in these stories into anything I write, then I would be a very happy man. Every story stands proudly alone, yet there are links between them and the final story closes things off nicely.

Oh and I learned that a wifebeater is a kind of sleeveless t-shirt. Yes I had to Google that.
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4.0 out of 5 stars wow - very violent, very good too, 18 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Crimes in Southern Indiana (Paperback)
Short stories aren't usually my kind of thing, but these are really good, and made me wish hed written a full "proper" novel. Maybe tarantino could thread these stories together in bid to recreate the magic of pulp fiction...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Stuff,, 29 May 2014
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This review is from: Crimes in Southern Indiana (Paperback)
Brutal,honest ,compelling,painful,enthralling, unputdownable,powerful......and any other available superlatives. It is like the marriage of. Elmore Leonard and William Failkner..... Imagine and enjoy!
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Crimes in Southern Indiana
Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill (Paperback - 3 Jan 2013)
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