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A Single Shot

3.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Foreword by Daniel Woodrell

Daniel Woodrell is the author of Winter's Bone, The Bayou Trilogy and The Outlaw Album: Stories.

In a time when reliable standards of personal conduct have allegedly eroded and, no longer anchored by religious conviction or cultural cohesion, have diminished to irresolute situational postures and secular mumbles, an older, less elastic code of honor may seem vastly appealing, even heroic. To avert the confusions attendant on choice, such codes are simplified, starkly so, but clearly: Do that to me, you can rely on me to do this to you. Do that to my kin, watch for smoke from your garage. Say that to my wife, and this is the bog where your worried relatives will find you face down and at peace forever. Should it require the efforts of generations to uphold this code, to respond to the responses, so be it. Such codes ask an awful lot of adherents (my own great grandfather was an adherent, and when a slander on his wife reached his ears obeyed the code promptly and went door to door with a pistol throughout the neighborhood I still live in, but, shrewdly, no one he encountered would admit to being the source and he did not get the satisfaction of killing some poor wretched gossip and his wife attempted suicide by drinking Paris Green while he was out thoroughly publicizing the slander) and deliver little, but they yet exist.

John Moon, the resolute, pitiful and confused man at the heart of A Single Shot, one of the finest novels of rural crime and moral horror in the past few decades, has an inherited code of his own, but almost innocently violates it, and experiences a cascade of nightmares in response. He is a hunter, raised on the rules of hunting, the ethics of hunting, and can’t let a wounded deer slink into the thicket to die a slow agonizing death. So he follows as he should, obeying every tenet of the deerslayer code, chases up hills and over rocks, on and on, then down another hill until exhausted, when suddenly a bush wiggles, there’s a flash of brown, and he breaks the most important and basic rule of all, pulls that trigger. Moon is the creation of Matthew F. Jones, a hard, wonderful and very powerful writer you might not know yet, but ought to soon. But be forewarned, dear reader, Jones is a twisted motherfucker when sitting at his keyboard, twisted in the manner so many of us appreciate mightily, and will not spare your tender sensibilities should you be among those poor souls afflicted by such. He rakes you over the coals at a measured pace, unfurls wrath from six angles, and the amen he delivers over John Moon will keep even other twisted motherfuckers awake nights.

Andrei Tarkovsky, the legendary Russian film director, once said, "The allotted function of art is not, as is often assumed, to put across ideas, to propagate thought, to serve as an example. The aim of art is to prepare a person for death, to plough and harrow his soul, rendering it capable of turning to good."

My personal list of nasty country boy and girl writers who so admirably insist on sharing their "ploughing and harrowing" with the wider world, representing, if you will, is select but with room for more--Jim Thompson, Flannery O’Connor, Tom Kromer (Waiting for Nothing), Charles Williams, Tillie Olsen (in her fashion, trust me), James Ross, Meridel LeSueur (The Girl, a masterpiece), vast acres of Joe Lansdale, Larry Brown, William Gay. Matthew F. Jones has a seat at the table and has for a good while though not everybody noticed. Well, notice now, friends, Jones is major, he’s got the piss and vinegar and moral rigor that make books matter, and he’s got more books to offer.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

While perhaps too nihilistic for the commercial mainstream, this harrowing, high-voltage thriller ought to bring Jones (The Elements of Hitting) the wide recognition that eluded his two previous novels. A gritty, claustrophobic blend of Jim Thompson and James Dickey, it depicts the seven-day ordeal of a backwoods poacher who accidentally shoots a runaway girl. Set in an unnamed, seedy, mountain town, the novel opens as reclusive John Moon, whose wife and young son have recently left, hunts a buck into a canyon in the state preserve adjacent to his trailer home (which sits on farmland repossessed from his family by the bank some years before). There he fires a shot into a thicket, killing not the buck but teenage Ingrid Banes, who is hiding out with a cache of $100,000. In a panic, Moon stashes the body and takes the cash, hoping to facilitate a reconciliation with his wife, only to find it's the property of Banes's sadistic boyfriend, Waylon, and his psychopathic partner, "the Hen," who's linked to an unsolved local torture/murder case. Moon's hardscrabble world then begins to implode: Banes's body resurfaces, and resurfaces; overwhelmed with guilt, Moon decides to give her a proper burial, as Waylon and the Hen close in. With great economy, surprising pathos and a keen sense of the grotesque, Jones weaves this story toward a shocking showdown in the forest.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (April 7, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385318332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385318334
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,813,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Unbound
One of the great unknown literary noir novels of the last ten years, Matthew Jones' A Single Shot is set in mountainous back country where, at its outset, John Moon, a local farmer, divorced, goes hunting. At the same time two young drifters, male and female, are temporarily settled in around Moon's hunting grounds. Tragedy ensues.
What makes this so compelling and powerful is the author's unrelenting portrait of a man who cannot stop thinking about what he has done, to the point of manic obsession, to the point of visualizing his victim appearing before him in ghostly form, and to the point of wild indetermination about what to do with the stash of cash found in the temporary nesting ground. The revelation of criminal activity adds just the right element to this dark fever dream of a novel that pushes the reader forward, further and further into John Moon's world.
As we travel down this path of dread we realize that his inner world more and more becomes his outer one until the boundary between the two is blurry indeed. As well, the intermittent involvement with his ex-wife, decidedly frustrating, is the "two" in a one-two punch adding to the burning emotional intensity here.
The author's grasp of rural speech patterns, behaviors, and lifestyle is flawless, giving the novel the authenticity it needs to make it truly masterful.
Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
A Single Shot is a weird and twisted story of a man, John Moon, who accidentally shoots a young teenager. The book goes on to explain his emotional turmoil and the lengths he goes to to make sure he isn't caught. John Moon has always wanted a simple life but the older he gets, the more confusing his life gets. The accidental shooting of this young girl haunts every aspect of his life. It become the center of his conscience and he is suspicious of everyone and everything. The book moves along quickly and is easy to read. It has alot of twists and an interesting ending.
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Format: Paperback
I can't believe I hadn't heard of this author before a friend convinced me to read A SINGLE SHOT. The book is a masterpiece, one of those rare novels that stays in your head weeks after you've finished it. I put it down while reading it only to occasionally remind myself that what was happening in it wasn't happening in fact or to marvel at Jones's incredible ability to create taut scenes and real characters. I actually read the book twice and liked it even more the second time. This book, and author, I predict, will be read for years to come. Mr. Jones, more please!
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Format: Hardcover
Matthew F. Jones has written a tight thriller, A Single Shot, that takes the reader deeper and deeper down a dark tunnel of despair and violence. It begins with a single shot that reverberates in one man's life until the final few pages. There is no let up from the protaganist's despair and it makes for an exciting and somewhat depressing read. The author writes well and uses the space of this short novel effectively and chillingly as he shows how a single moment can destroy the destiny of men forever. It has the feel of the world of film noir mixed with the literary imagingings of mystery novel.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Powerful book with strong characters and setting, about a backwoods hunter who shoots a girl by mistake and goes downhill thereafter. Good writing, although curiously flat in parts, despite emotional potential of content. Potent combination of sex and violence may by too much for some. It ain't 'Deliverance', it ain't 'A Simple Plan', but it's a good read, being both suspenseful and well plotted. I will check out more of this author's books.
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Format: Paperback
This book is quite possibly the most surprising thing I've read in a while. I have to admit that since I've been doing a lot more review reading (meaning, reading books that I've agreed to read and review rather than books that just seem interesting to me), I've been pleasantly surprised quite a few times. I put off reading this novel because honestly, I wasn't sure it was my type of book. I am SO glad I decided to read it. It's taken me a few days to write this review as this book did something to my brain. This is NOT a happy book. Not by any means. But it's almost the type of book that NEEDS to written and to be read.

The Good: From the introduction (which was written by Dan Woodrell by the way, amazing introduction) to the very end of the novel, the writing was superb. I gobbled this gem up in about a day and a half and I couldn't peel my eyes away from the text. Very early on, we get the sense that the main character, John is screwed. I never had a doubt that poor John was getting the shaft in this novel. His one mistake (the title aptly referring to that mistake) leads him on a wild-goose chase that just perpetuates a multitude of other mistakes. I honestly felt bad for John. Even though I'm not from the "backwoods" or "hillbilly" country, I have relatives that live somewhat similarly as the characters in this novel. Maybe that is why I felt like I knew John or at least knew him as a type of man. I've seen his type of man so many times. This made the novel more interesting because I felt I had a stake in what happened to John and what he was doing, saying and experiencing. The author did an exceptional job of peppering the novel with a certain redneck slang/dialect. It was perfect, not too much, not too over the top but just enough to know that's EXACTLY the type of people talking.
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