Welcome to Mystic, Georgia. This going-nowhere town hosts the annual Rattlesnake Roundup, which attracts thousands of visitors for a rough 'n' rowdy weekend of your basic primate behavior--hard drinking, ogling bikini-clad contestants in the Miss Mystic Rattle beauty contest, betting on dog fights, snake catching, and snake eating. Meet Joe Lon Mackey. He lives in a trailer in Mystic with his lumpy, devoted wife and two hollerin' young'uns. His days of glory as the Boss Snake of the Mystic Rattlers football team are over, and he didn't have the grades to go to college. He's just now realizing that his dreary business selling beer, bonded whiskey, and moonshine is all he's gonna get in the way of a destiny.
As the crowds for the Roundup start to overfill the camping area, Joe Lon feels on the inside like a barrel of snakes: "a writhing of the darkness, an incessant boiling of something thick and slow-moving." As he and his good ol' buddy get ready to wander around and check out the scene, Joe Lon says, "Just a bunch of crazy people cranking up to git crazier. But that's all right. Feel on the edge of doing something outstanding myself."
A Feast of Snakes is probably the most skillfully crafted and entertaining novel ever written in which a fed up person goes violently berserk. But Harry Crews belongs to the tradition of great Southern weird writers such as Flannery O'Connor, so A Feast of Snakes is richer than that: Crews serves up the reality of people's savage and unrelenting cruelty toward animals and toward each other, stark truths about human despair, male-female face-offs at their sexiest and most ruthless, and (here's his real genius) humor so powerful you can't help but laugh--even though it hurts when you do.
A Feast of Snakes, first published in 1976, is a dazzling and flawless horror novel. --Fiona Webster