Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words
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C. Hoyt Caldwell lives in the Tennessee Mountains and writes books. Bad Way Out is his debut.
You can learn more about the author at his blog.
E.R. Percy is the best moonshine maker in the Tennessee mountains. But business isn’t as usual when one day he finds a naked giant in his brewing shed. Then a local girl is found stabbed to death and the competition for an illegal high steps up. Milo, tired of being outdone by E.R. offers him a job he can’t refuse. Unfortunately he does.
The author claims in his bio that he’s not smart enough to be subtle. On the strength of this excellent book I have to disagree with him.
The action takes place in Maiden Falls where, as E.R. says, you only end up if you’re lost or hiding. As a result there’s a whole host of fascinating and gritty characters on show.
E.R. spends most of his time making moonshine and selling it to the locals. He has a distant relationship with his wife, Rose, and is estranged from his father. He makes enough money to survive, but life doesn’t change much. Only meth heads cause him any trouble, all supplied by local bad boy, Ford.
But from the first pages E.R.’s life is gradually turned upside down. A girl is found dead, then her teenage sister, Eva, begins to throw herself at E.R. and a huge guy appears in his brewing shed – naked and unconscious.
Then, tired of losing business, Ford’s boss Milo makes E.R. a job offer – sell his drugs. But E.R. doesn’t do drugs and he says no. Unfortunately Milo is somewhat unhinged and undertakes an increasingly vicious campaign against E.R. and then his family. All the while he’s fighting Eva off, strengthening his bond with Rose and investigating the local girl’s murder.
As the pages turned the story became increasingly engaging and enthralling. E.R. narrates the story in first person so the reader receives his hillbilly vernacular and behavior in full flow. It’s done sufficiently well that this adds to the story, supporting the action which occurs as a consequence of the moonshine maker’s upbringing and nature.
Here’s an example of the writing:
Cousin Crick was asleep in the lawn chair in front of an old shack I used for my second still. How that poor chair supported his fat ass, I’ll never know. Crick came close to 30 pounds with about 20 of them located in his chin.
There are some grim elements – murders, torture and the corrupt church – but these are delivered with a wry sense of humour and are by no means gory or black. There’s also a strong family and friends message in the narrative.
The tension ramps up really well and by the latter half of the book all I wanted to do was turn the page and find out what happens. The ending is well done and ties perfectly together.
All in all an excellent read.
Some sex and violence, but nothing in the extreme.
A couple of typos.
Rating: Five *****Stars