Tag Archives: country noir

The Whole Kit and Kaboodle

butterflies on poo.jpg

Daddy and Junior got that coon off the road before it started to stink. The July rain they’d gotten and high temperatures four straight days made a quick inevitability. A virtual certainty. It was gonna reek.

Albert would eat it nonetheless. Anything stood fair game on his half-barrel BBQ grill. Leastways without too many flies or ticks.

Them rescuing road-pizza for Albert prompted little chatter around town, as people were used to their quirkiness.

He might draw the line at maggots. They got to his gut one time. Otherwise, his seasoned stomach took it. Some sauce made all the difference.

100 Word Challengechatter


Filed under country noir, creative non-fiction, writing

The Weight of Blood – book review

McHughCountry noir — as dubbed by one of my favorite authors, Daniel Woodrell, is on my top shelf of genres.  So I don’t mind dark brooding stories. Living in the same part of the United States as the fictional town of Henbane, we are lucky to be somewhat oblivious to the realistic base for this type of crime. The author began her book tour locally and mentioned at her first signing how she got the idea from a real life crime scenario that happened not too far away from here. While this particular tale is about some people who are seriously creepy and depraved, the events are told in such a way that a more desensitized reader (like me) continues eagerly turning pages.

Although the “culprit” emerged early on, I kept grasping at Lila’s outcome and her daughter Lucy’s future. My curiosity was piqued by more than just the beautifully crafted descriptions of Ozarks’ scenery I’m used to but that some people aren’t privileged to see. These characters became real women whose predicaments made me cringe, and I hoped in vain for the best for both protagonists.

The scenario in this book was more palatable than some to which it’s being compared. McHugh’s characters meant more to me than most of those in a Daniel Woodrell or Gillian Flynn story, because I wanted to like them. As far as the connections to those authors being drawn, there was more hopefulness for the women of Henbane regardless of its misery. Even though I realize the fuller desperation of Woodrell’s and Flynn’s females, my overall impression of that work may (unfortunately or unfairly) fall on how well they draw unlikable people. McHugh’s main characters are sympathetic, while Flynn admits to creating the lesser-seen female villain, and Woodrell many times pens women for whom there is little hope at all. Who’s to say which is more realistic of the three styles? McHugh is a burgeoning author who deserves her own kudos if she can ever escape the comparisons.

Even though I sing praises for McHugh’s ability to build tension, her characters aren’t 100% flawless. I had a hard time believing the implicit loyalty between the Dane brothers, family ties be damned. That much sociopathy surely limits the ability to truly love other people, even family, so the fierce devotion did not ring true. I, however, loved the juxtaposition of that loyalty with moral conscience and how the two concepts competed against each other in all the interlaced characters’ lives. The way McHugh weaved those ideas throughout this too-true-to-life crime story was done very well.

Truth is truly stranger and sadder than fiction, but we can’t live in constant fear of the criminally anti-social elements in our midst. I prefer to remain mindfully unaware, at the risk of living in denial, of that ugly felonious sort and just read about it through the creative capacity of writers like McHugh and Woodrell. People like the Henbanians (Henbanites?) are everywhere, and I carelessly choose to believe in the good (ala Lucy) and middle-of-the-roaders — those long teetering toward the good side (Jamie), even if that road is paved with gravel out in the middle of nowhere. Besides, it’s pretty out there.

I’d rather think the Birdies out-number the Joe Bills. Naive as it may be, I want to believe more quality citizens exist than degenerates. Let’s hope they’re the out-liers, the miscreants just laying low, hiding in plain sight but concealing their actions from detection, left to speculation within a good book like The Weight of Blood.



Filed under reading

The Buy Off – Studio 30 writing prompt

It hadn’t always been this way. Up to now, she could talk her way out of just about any situation. She had a knack for it. A special talent. Doing so usually required only the implication of promiscuity on her part, never the actual delivery of that suggestion. At least, not until now.

Exit 38

Mindy was going to owe Petty big time for this one, though. Her brother had gone to plead for Petty’s help getting her out the current mess, and they didn’t know yet what it would cost them. her brother hated groveling, but there was no other way. They were broke, and she couldn’t stand another night in county lockup. So she’d called her brother on the brink of tears.

But no way would she show that weakness in here. It was bad enough that she had to suck up to that bitch guard to get a relatively clean towel and some toothpaste with nobody to get them for her otherwise. Old Rita Grother had worked at the jail long enough that she enjoyed a little prisoner pandering. She’d bring sweet Mindy all the Colgate and deodorant she asked for if it afforded her a smattering of attention from anyone but her relentless girlfriend at home. That woman couldn’t cook for shit, and Rita had long ago lost interest in anything else from her. Mindy wasn’t above shaking her ass a little for Rita, even if she brought Speedstick instead of Mindy’s usual “Powder Fresh Scent” by Secret. Strong enough for a man but made for a woman, indeed.

Smiling for Ol’ Grother would now seem like a walk in the park. Giving it up for Petty or one of his boys was a completely different story. Mindy realized the price for his help out would be higher this time. All it cost her before was a lap dance, even though that was a helluva price to pay for redemption on a trifling minor in possession charge. He enjoyed young lovelies like her paying homage to a nasty old criminal like him. That battered ticker of his surely went double-speed when the girls needed help. Made him feel important to have them hang on his every word, stupid as his words were.

She and other destitutes just like her had paid him back with their skin and any semblance of dignity, at the high stakes of his clammy hands touching their arms, legs, sometimes a bare breast … before he almost had another heart attack in the process. It made her flesh crawl to look at his pockmarked face and unbelievably bad dye job. He reeked of stale Old Spice and perversion.

Mindy would turn her head away when she lifted her shirt for him. Sometimes it was easy to pretend he wasn’t there gawking at her boobs, his tongue dripping a disgusting sluice of chew past the stained yellow nubs of his teeth. Petty slouched backward in the faux leather office chair, curled electrical tape stretched across its cracks that didn’t cover the full gaps. She concentrated on the stray itchy-looking stuffing to distract her attention. Gazing down on him from above, her stomach churned at the sight of liver spots across a thinning dome and ringlet curls on the back of his head almost dripping Grecian Formula upon a frayed collar.

He gripped the stiff brown nylon covering his crotch — or maybe it was double-knit — with his left hand and kept the right in his jacket pocket on his other gun. He’d taken that one out once or twice, a snub-nose .22, and rubbed it between his legs to prove who was in control. It was probably longer than his real package, most likely by a long shot.

In these moments of indiscretion, Mindy’s mind wandered to those same thin, hairy claws undressing his pathetic wife in the darkness of their boudoir, and Mindy felt an overwhelming sorrow for the overweight crone … even if she had been dumb enough to marry him. He probably demanded she take off her own clothes, much like his “gals” at the club, in preparation for his dirty work behind closed doors of their home. They deserved each other as far as Mindy was concerned. That woman had to deal with her own self-loathing.

Meanwhile in the backroom office of the Silver Slipper, he pressured young women like Mindy into penance for their own stupidity of asking him for bail money or enough to keep the lights on in their dingy apartments or house trailers. His power as the strip club owner, more so his cash in hand, put him in a place of omniscience. If it wasn’t bad enough she had to waitress at his club on the weekend, she now suffered the indignity of owing Petty another of these special favors. Though she didn’t have to actually dance on the stage, she did her own scantily clad number in flagranti in his private office as restitution.

exit 38One day she’d get it together and leave, even if it meant stranding her brother in the hell hole. She’d save back what little tips the regulars at the shitty bar offered her for slopping their Maker’s Mark and Cokes every weekend — the pitiful dollars not being used for their kids’ lunch money like they should. A pittance was all she had stuffed in her underwear drawer so far, but it’d have to be enough for gas to the city and security deposits at a new place. Regardless of how inevitably low the new standard of living was bound to be. She might even “borrow” Rita Grother’s car to go.

She felt bad for her brother, though. He’d have to fend for himself there among the pathetically poor and chronically incapacitated. He bounced at the Silver Slipper‘s door and threw out belligerents, which was about the best money he’d ever make in that town. Plus, he got to enjoy the floor show for free.

Mindy mulled over how bad it would be for him to face Petty when she left. Would her brother suffer for her sin of desertion since Petty had coughed up her bail money? Hell no — she’d earned it. Her brother wouldn’t be made to flash or dry hump him in her absence.

The thugs could still make it bad on him. That was a risk she was willing to take.   

The prompt redemption came from Studio 30 Plus, an online writing community. Studio30


Filed under writing