- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 2556 KB
- Print Length: 280 pages
- Publisher: Lock10 Press (1 Sept. 2017)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B075672GNF
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #716,387 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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|Print List Price:||£7.88|
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Some Dark Holler (The Redemption of Ephraim Cutler Book 1) Kindle Edition
|Length: 280 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||
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Some Dark Holler opens at the close of the Civil War. Death arrives at a meeting with Scratch (the Devil) and two of Scratch’s lackeys. A deal with the Devil will protect you from death for seven years. In return all you have to do is deliver another soul. William is his number one recruiter. The first chapter (you can listen to the audiobook version on YouTube) ends with Scratch sending William after a boy named Ephraim.
(There is actually a really cool explanation for Death’s involvement and how he works. Every human has a mortal imprint (“a kind of long shadow that trailed from his being and connected him to death”). That allows Death to collect without personally attending to it. If you sign a deal with the Devil, Death removes his imprint.)
Ephraim is grown into a fine young man and a fine hunter in Sixmile Creek. He is respected and well liked by young and old, but he never quite feels comfortable with either his well off friend Peyton Henson or with Isabella, the general store owner’s daughter who has her eye on him. Ephraim’s daddy got killed in the Civil War and his mother leans mighty heavy on him. He lives in mortification that his friends will come to his cabin and hear her talking to his father’s gun. Nancy, a granny woman who goes barefoot and has her goat pull her cart, and Reverend Boggs, who believes doctoring and taking a tithe are equally grievous sins, round out the main cast.
Bauserman starts thing at a slow boil, introducing the setting and characters. The story really kicks off when Ephraim’s mother Lucretia demands he kill Peyton’s brother in retaliation for his daddy’s death. Silas fought for the Yankees, and that is as good as killing him himself in Lucretia’s eyes.
For a hillbilly like me, stories set in the Appalachian Mountains live or die by their voice. Bauserman absolutely nails it. Not just the way we talk, but the way we think and act. This may be a debut novel, but the voice is right up there with a Manly Wade Wellman or a Ron Rash.
This isn’t quite Ron Rash’s Appalachian Mountains. This is a world where the legends and myths and superstitions of its people are frequently real. It is a world where all that separates a granny woman from a witch is casting a single hex. You can ward off evil by crossing two sticks and pouring salt over it or with a horseshoe. Or, better yet, hurt it with iron. You can always tell a witch by her (or his) evil eye.
Manly Wade Wellman wrote for the pulps, and there has been a lot of talk in circles interesting in reviving pulp-style stories about moral peril. Misha Burnett defines it better than I ever could:
“Consequences are more than just material. In Pulp stories there is not simply the risk that that the hero may fail to defeat the villain, there is also the greater risk that the hero may become the villain. A hero should have a code to follow, and lines that he or she is resolved not to cross. That line should be close enough that the temptation to cross is real—maybe not constantly, but from time to time. There is almost always a really good reason to break one’s moral code, particularly to protect a loved one in danger.”
One of the things that makes Some Dark Holler great is that it is all about moral peril. How could a book about selling your soul to the Devil not be? But it isn’t just the ultimate decision that we know Ephraim will be faced with. He is faced with several decisions putting him in moral peril before that. As are the other characters. Characters make real sacrifices in making these decisions, and they don’t always make the right decision. This is a book with a real moral core, and it is remarkable the complexity and nuance it brings to these issues without ever losing that core.
Bauserman is also offering a companion background research book – Six Tales From Sixmile Creek. I haven’t quite finished it, but it is full of tidbits and wonderful stories he came across in researching his book. Oh, and that name? It comes from a Dwight Yoakam/Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song.
When a book begins with a meeting between Death and the Devil to sign contracts with some men who
are selling their souls to avoid death for seven years, you know things aren’t going to go well for somebody.
The story involves Ephraim Cutler, the young man the Devil wants to recruit, William, the recruiter, Reuben, who is seeking revenge for his son Amos who was recruited by William seven years previously, Isabel, a young lady who is sweet on Ephraim, Barefoot Nancy, an old granny woman who isn’t a witch despite what people say - until she is forced to curse the townspeople to help Ephraim, and a hellhound.
Early on, Ephraim is more or less pushed into killing another man. From that action, all kinds of bad consequences fall. It seems all Ephraim’s options are bad. He can sign up with the Devil, get lynched, or fade away and become a haint. It’s interesting to watch how he deals with these bad options.
Thanks to the author for a free copy of this book.
Even without that angle, this is an entertaining and engrossing book. The story involves a servant of the devil who gets immortality in seven year increments. During that time, he has to ensnare someone picked out for him into selling his soul to the devil. Failure means that Death - the pale rider himself - can claim the servant.
This time Scratch has selected young Ephraim Cutler as the target. Ephraim is an honest and decent boy, but his mama is a bit tetched, and when she compels him to kill a Yankee out of revenge for the death of his father, the story kicks into high gear with plots and counterplots involving the Devil, Death, the servant and others trying to capture young Ephraim in order to hang him for his crime or turn him to the devil's use. Ephraim has his allies in his sweetheart Isabel and the "granny woman" Barefoot Nancy.
I was torn between giving this four or five stars. I found the dialect somewhat annoying at first, but over the course of the book it settled down. I thought there was way too much traveling back and forth, but I found myself turning pages to find out things, such as, who would turn out to be the devil's servant in Sixmile Creek and how would Ephraim and Isabel get out of their various captures and captivities, and how would Ephraim manage to cure the Hellhound bite and face off against the villain.
In the end, the resolutions were satisfying. This turns out to be a complete book in itself, which is a plus, but Ephraim ends up in the service of Death for 150 years, which ought to bring him up to our time, as he seeks forgiveness for his crime. In some ways, I fancied this as something like the origin story of Silver John, who seemed to know an awful lot about the folkways and by-ways of Appalachia.
For a first time book, the author hit the ground running.