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Backwoods folk as sharp and as deadly as knives
on 11 August 2012
Told in the first person in the accents of the Arkansas hills this is the tale of Jerry, a deputy in the local sheriff's office, in a locality where drug trafficking and attendant corruption seem to be something of a way of life, though as long as you don't get involved, say nothing and keep your head down, you will most likely not come to any harm. If you are involved, well now that's a different story, double and triple crosses abound, damaged folk drift in and out in a scenario that is as deadly as anything you would find in Urban Mean Streets.
The title references of mythical backwoods beast that'll take your head off if you stray too far into its land. At times when the game is at its deadliest Jerry identifies with this beast.
Central character Jerry might talk like a hick, but he is constantly one step ahead as a born survivor. A nice touch to illustrate how sharp he is, is the habit he has of describing those he meets as if in a police profile; age, height, weight. He kills or injures without any remorse those who are also involved in this dangerous game; it is never really clear whether he need to kill some of these folk or not, he just does this to be safe, it is how he views the world. Unhinged yes, but not repellent, you get the impression as long as you didn't cross him, you'd be safe.
In Jerry's labyrinthine world is his girlfriend Maggie, with her own demons and scared out of her wits when she learns the truth of his other side, angry at her desertion of him, he still remains loving to her, trying his best to win her back in his own version of tenderness, this relationship continues despite the pressures but whether it will be continuing beyond this book is never made clear.
I wish the author well; it would be nice to read a follow-up book of Jerry (and hopefully Maggies)'s further exploits. Yes this was graphically violent with a high body count and a clutch of unlikeable characters but Frank Wheeler jr has produced and crafted a very richly noir world in an easy to read style which does not offend the intelligence, in fact it down right demands you to keep alert when reading it.