Crimes In Southern Indiana
To quote Donald Ray Pollock on this: `Good Lord, where the **** did this guy
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
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
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
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.
one and you're making a huge mistake.
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