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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!!
Ok...me read anything about history, I don't think so! Not my normal read, I'm more a fantasy/SciFi reader. But wow, I loved this book. I finished it in 2 days. It was engaging and very funny. Glen's insight into people is intelligent and real. This book is a lesson in what is right and wrong and how doing wrong is sometimes right. It is about learning from your...
Published on August 8, 2008 by Michelle Lutze

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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's in a name?
One might expect a book with such an intriguing title as The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart to deliver a good story, and Book I of M. Glenn Taylor's does just that. Book I reminded me of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain salted with a bit of Foxfire mountain folk lore. In the person of the orphan Trenchmouth Taggart (TT),eponymous for the disease that plagues him throughout...
Published on August 12, 2009 by T. M. Johnson


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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What's in a name?, August 12, 2009
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This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
One might expect a book with such an intriguing title as The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart to deliver a good story, and Book I of M. Glenn Taylor's does just that. Book I reminded me of Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain salted with a bit of Foxfire mountain folk lore. In the person of the orphan Trenchmouth Taggart (TT),eponymous for the disease that plagues him throughout the book, Taylor creates a colorful, sympathetic character. In Books II and III, however, TT's story seems to collapse, strain the reader's credulity as the protagonist attempts to escape a violent past by assuming a variety of aliases: Chicky Gold, A.C.Gilbert, and finally "Ace" (the moniker Ace for a mountain man?). With each aka, TT assumes a new role (blues harp player, newspaper man, handyman, sage...)and the book takes on a Forrest Gumpian ambience;the character wins a Pulitzer for a hillbilly piece he writes on the character of John Kennedy and then carries the reader with him along the trail of numerous current events (Viet Nam War, Desert Storm...). Equally strange was the 3rd person narrator referring to TT's dentures as "pearly whites," having a surefooted mountain man who survives W. Virginia winters on acorns "hotfooting it" from one place to another;saying "Shoot," when asked if he would respond to a question.... It seemed perfectly credible for a mountain man who no doubt could "bark a squirrel,' to be sniping at the kneecaps of Company thugs hired to protect the interests of corporate mining companies, but when a character who survives off the land, lives in the hills and hollers of back country W. Virginia, a character who sews soles on his moccasins using the penis bone of a raccoon for a needle laments he is missing "the Showcase Showdown portion of "The Price is Right," this reader and storyline parted ways. The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is a good first novel(I did discover a new musical instrument, the theremin)--but it is a FIRST novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Colourful and well researched, but at times a frustrating read, April 11, 2010
This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
A finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart" is M. Glenn Taylor's debut novel. Beginning in 1903 and continuing up to the present day, it is set in West Virginia and recounts the life story of one Early Taggart - nicknamed 'Trenchmouth' on account of his diseased gums - through his many careers, from his early beginnings as a snake-handler and sharpshooter to acquiring fame first as an expert harmonica player and then as a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist.

In a story that transcends such a long period of time, it is difficult to maintain the sense of authenticity, but the author succeeds in bringing Trenchmouth's world alive. His research and passion for his subject are clear, and he brilliantly depicts the gradual evolution of life in West Virginia - his home state - as it faces up to the intrusions of corporations, politicans and modern technology alike. And as the world changes, so Taylor's protagonist, Trenchmouth, continually takes on new identities - reinventing himself with different names, settling in new places and establishing new friendships with a host of colourful and individual characters. The narrative voice is engaging throughout: often gritty, direct and to the point, yet at other times flowing and lyrical, like the ballad style that the novel seeks to emulate.

While the setting and voice are well realised, however, there appears to be little structure to the narration of our hero's life. The pace rarely changes gear, and the lack of a basic hook to grab the reader's interest is problematic: no particular reason is given why we should care for the protagonist or be interested in his tale; no questions are posed at the outset to which we seek the answers. Of course this is a novel driven less by events than it is by character, but even then, the objective style of narration employed by the author means that it is difficult to ever see inside Trenchmouth's mind, to understand his motivations and desires. Perhaps this was part of the author's intention - demonstrating that each of us is essentially unknowable, whil also maintaining the aura of mystery around his folk-hero protagonist - but for this reader it proved frustrating.

Beautifully written and vividly imagined, "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart" presents a largely positive, life-affirming message: showing us that we don't have to be defined by our past, but can change our ways, take on fresh challenges and strive to improve ourselves. At the same time Taylor offers some interesting musings on the relationship between memory and reality, fact and fiction, myth and truth, and the relative importance of each of these in shaping both individual lives and wider society. Despite this, however, the lack of a clear narrative arc means that it is hard for the reader to fully engage with this novel.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!!, August 8, 2008
Ok...me read anything about history, I don't think so! Not my normal read, I'm more a fantasy/SciFi reader. But wow, I loved this book. I finished it in 2 days. It was engaging and very funny. Glen's insight into people is intelligent and real. This book is a lesson in what is right and wrong and how doing wrong is sometimes right. It is about learning from your mistakes, about second and third chances and about everyday hero's. It's about how one person can touch so many lives and not realize they can make a difference, good or bad. I loved it and yes this would make a great movie...I would be first in line to see it!!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and Drama, July 25, 2008
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This book not only gave a wonderful sense of history but presented it through deep characters. Trenchmouth Taggart is also very dramatic and at times a page-turner. A friend of the author suggested I read the book which turned out a wonderful recommendation. For a first book or any number book, I have to recommend Trenchmouth Taggart very highly. Kudos to M. Glenn Taylor!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Character, March 22, 2010
This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
Glenn Taylor has done something pretty remarkable here in creating a gripping story that follows the protagonist's entire life from birth to death. The title fits perfectly, as this really is an epic ode to a man who has lived his life like none other.

The story is divided into three parts, chronicling Taggart's childhood and adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Like Taggart, the chapters are interesting and too the point. Here we have a character who is the polar opposite of dull, unlike any other in literature. As the prologue tells us, Taggart is a "one time inventor, snake handler, cunnilinguist, sniper, woodsman, harmonica man, and newspaperman" and at the point from where the story is told, he is also the "oldest living Homo sapien" in West Virginia. (So much for the stereotype of West Virginians as a bunch of simpletons doing simple things with their lives.) Throughout the story, Taggart changes names multiple times. He goes from sniping coal operators to being offered a staff job at the New Yorker, from living homeless in the woods of West Virginia to a one-room apartment on Chicago's West Side. He is a man who is as busy as a hustler and as hard-working as a rancher but he always stays true to his roots. Trenchmouth Taggart is truly a spectacular character.

The prose of this story is as strong as the character it describes. I've never been to West Virginia, but it seems as if Taylor's writing really encompasses the voice and spirit of this region. He also exhibits his skills as a storyteller in bringing the elliptic plot full circle. Throughout Taggart's fantastic changes in name, profession, and location, the narrative stays cohesive. Again, like Taggart himself, the story is something that on the surface seems out of control but is completely solid at its core.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An outlaw turned right, February 25, 2010
This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
This was a very entertaining story. And as one reviewer already stated I got the impression of Forest Gump also, just a lot wiser. Great story, it was fluid and fast and it immediately pulled you into the places and things that were happening. I didn't want to put it down and I couldn't read it fast enough. I didn't really like the authors hidden agenda about mountain-top removol, that should be a subject for another book, iit almost ruined the book for me, but he strayed away from it just enough to overlook it. Other then that you can't go wrong with this book. Glad to see someone finally write something positive about this beautiful place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Forrest Gump Lite", July 10, 2010
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This book follows the main character Trenchmouth Taggart over the course of a century.

The main character is takes on several different personae, each of which has little connection to the prior character, but for bad teeth. Along the way, the character stumbles in to some famous people a la Forrest Gump.

each time the main character changes his location and occupation, the book is almost like a new book.

The book alters between realism and near-fantasy, to the point where it is somewhat unbelievable and strains credulity.

Overall, it wasn't a terrible book, but it wasn't great either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A love letter to Appalachia, May 25, 2010
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W. V. Buckley (Kansas City, MO) - See all my reviews
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It's easy to dismiss impoverished folks like those in Glenn Taylor's The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart and view them as stereotypes - poor, uneducated, makers and swillers of moonshine, or, to coin a phrase, "bitterly clinging to their guns and their religion." But the title character in Taylor's debut novel refused to be stereotyped or dismissed.

Taylor does a superb job in getting us to meet Trenchmouth on his own terms. Through his eyes we see the crushing poverty, the back-breaking labor of coal miners, the bloody conflict between coal miners and mine owners, the racial injustice and so much more.

Divided into three sections, the first tells of Trenchmouth's birth, near drowning when his mother attempts to baptise him in an icy stream and adoption by a coal widow already raising another abandonned child. Trenchmouth grows into young adulthood and comes to the aid of striking coal miners, the repercusions of which echo throughout the rest of the story and marked Trenchmouth as a wanted man.

In the second part of the story, Trenchmouth has been living in the West Virginia woods for around a quarter century. When he emerges from the hills he finds the world much changed. With his father's harmonica (the only thing of his father's he has) he becomes a musician, traveling with black musicians in the years leading up to the Civil Rights era.

When his past begins to catch up to him, it's off to the hills again for another extended stay. This time he emerges as a writer and finds a newspaper job. Here the story stretches credibility almost to the breaking point: not only does Trenchmouth become a journalist, but he travels with John Kennedy around the state, then wins a Pulitzer for his coverage of the presidential campaign. Finally, it's off to the mountains again to live out the last of his 108 years and protect his mountain from the encroachment of mining companies who would remove the top of the mountain to get to the coal within.

Trenchmouth Taggart is a fascinating character; therein lies the book's major weakness. With such a creation as Trenchmouth, why didn't Mr. Taylor allow his character's voice to narrate the story rather than fall back on the more traditional third-person narration? I suspect part of the answer is Mr. Taylor's desire to end the book on an ambiguous note. The other part of the answer may be that Mr. Taylor makes a rookie mistake in referencing Thomas Berger's Little Big Man (another story of a 100+ year old narrator recounting his life story) and tries to make his book as different from Berger's as possible. It's as if Mr. Taylor decides to openly confront any comparisons between the two books by stylistically saying, 'See? My book is different from his. Little Big Man is narrated in first person and my story is told in third person.'

Seems like if I cite the author's choice of styles in which he tells his story, then I haven't got much to complain about. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book and look forward to Mr. Taylor's future books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming, May 3, 2010
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This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
The preview available on the Kindle features the first few chapters, and by all accounts the most imaginitive and exciting chapters in the book. Upon reading the preview, I was immersed in the exaggerated tale of an old man's childhood circa 1900. He told of amazing, almost surreal occurrences that were fascinating to read. After those few "hook" chapters, the story all but loses its fantasy appeal, and turns to an underwhelming, but still unlikely, story of a man who got in some trouble, ran away, and became a recluse (rinse and repeat).

The author put great thought and detail into the story line, but towards the end of the book it feels like the author became bored of writing and decided to just give his outline in sentence-structure. I recall when I first started reading Trenchmouth it was hard not to internally narrate in the well described voice of T, but towards the end of the book I found myself too uncaptivated to do so. Nothing was surreal any longer, but rather completely plausible. This is one of those books that changes direction on you and only shows glimpses of what you had hoped it would be.

It was a great story, I simply wish that more imagination had been used in the latter half of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Characters I enjoyed knowing, November 27, 2009
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This review is from: The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel (Paperback)
The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart was a fun and very interesting read. The characters and places came alive for me. The three parts of the story are truly a ballad and I found myself only putting the book down when I finished a part. One of my favorite books is Tortilla Flat (John Steinbeck) and The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is a semblance in its character development and emotional participation. I recommend reading it.
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The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel
The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart: A Novel by M. Glenn Taylor (Paperback - June 16, 2009)
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