The popularity of Daniel Woodrell following the success of Winter’s Bone seems to have sparked a renaissance of country noir. Rural life can be dark, violent and strange. These qualities define a slew of new books that show back roads can be just as hard going as any city street.
Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories
by Frank Bill
Mr. Bill is a new player on the country noir scene. The title says it all: poverty, shotguns and a whole lot of Schedule 1 controlled substances. The author’s blog, Frank Bill’s House of Grit, declares, “Tight. Flat and to the point. I don’t waste words. I write them.”
Once Upon a River
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Campbell doesn’t disappoint with the story of Margo Crane, an Annie Oakley obsessed teenager with nothing but her rifle and survival skills taught by her deceased grandfather to keep her alive. She turns on, tunes in, and drops out rural Michigan style only to be told, “you can’t live like a wolf girl.” Says who?
The End of Vandalism
by Tom Drury
Perhaps to snobbishly literary to include on this list, Drury’s tale of Grouse Country and its sheriff Dan Norman has reinvented the small town novel. Think of it as a country version of Tao Lin. Did I just go there? Though published a few years ago, the library just picked up a few new copies.
Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking, and Survival
by Dan Fante
Though most of his novels are set in Los Angles, John Fante’s portrayal of working class life and stripped down prose style has been an inspiration for most of the writers on this list. Fante’s son Dan overcame a life of drugs and guns to become a successful writer himself. Fante chronicles the father and son’s relationship with alcohol, writing, and each other.
The Devil All the Time
by Donald Ray Pollock
Blood sacrificing preachers and a pair of serial killers populate this second novel by Pollock. How a young orphan can remain sane in midst this American nightmare? You have to read The Devil All the Time to find out. This the first novel by the author of the short story collection Knockemstiff, a book whose title was taken from the real life name of Pollock’s crazy home town.
The Outlaw Album
by Daniel Woodrell
No, this not a Waylon Jennings greatest hits album. This is the first collection of short stories from the aforementioned Woodrell, the author of Winter’s Bone and Tomato Red.