Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review of Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich (2015, Head of Zeus)

The Burroughs clan own and run Bull Mountain in North Georgia as if it’s their own private state, untouched by the rule of law except their own.  From there they run a major shine, pot and meth operation and are fiercely defensive of their territory.  Clayton Burroughs is the black sheep of the family, having become sheriff for the county.  He tries to keep the peace, but when a federal agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms turns up threatening to close down the mountain activities for good he once again has to choose between family and law.  Clayton hopes to broker a truce with his elder brother before hundreds of officers raid the mountain, though he knows it’s an almost impossible task to shift a deeply rooted sensibility and animosity and his actions will further isolate him from his kith and kin.

In Bull Mountain, Brian Panowich tells the story of the Burroughs clan over a seventy year period, charting their various internal rivalries and rise to become a major criminal enterprise.  While most of the story focuses on the present and choice facing the black sheep of the family, Clayton Burroughs, the local sheriff, Panowich provides a multi-threaded narrative that details key events in the family’s past, thus illuminating the present.  The result is an atmospheric, somewhat dark read, told in an engaging voice.  The Burroughs clan is well drawn and there is a very strong sense of place and social relations.  In particular, Clayton is nicely penned.  I thought the first three quarters was excellent: a well-structured, evocative plot and tight prose.  However, the story seemed to derail a little towards the end and the denouement didn’t ring true to me.  Nonetheless, Bull Mountain is a great piece of country noir and I think ready made for a movie adaption.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Betting it will earn the Edgar for best first novel.