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"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn RSS Feed (Austin, Texas)
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Hell Fire (Inspector Sejer Mysteries)
Hell Fire (Inspector Sejer Mysteries)
by Karin Fossum
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite Fossum, June 22, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Norwegian writer Karin Fossum never fails to impress me with her diverse format approaches in writing crime fiction. My favorite, THE INDIAN BRIDE, transcends genre and fits more squarely into literature. Her focus is on characters and/or communities, but her novels have such varied design that you can be sure of a fresh structure to each book.

HELLFIRE is an Inspector Sejer story, like most of Fossum’s books. Konrad Sejer is a laid-back, middle-aged widower-detective who is both thorough in his work and benevolent in his humanity. He is trying to solve the murder of a mother and her five-year-old son who were found in an abandoned caravan, stabbed to death. The bloodied knife was left at the crime scene, without fingerprints. In this crime, the questions are who and why.

There are two separate narratives that each focus on a single mother and son. One storyline is of the victims--Bonnie Hayden and her son, Simon. Bonnie is an attractive woman who has made the best of her hardships. She’s very protective of Simon, who suffers from separation anxiety when she drops him off at nursery school. To barely make ends meet, she works cleaning homes and running basic errands for the elderly and disabled.

Twenty-one-year-old Eddie Malthe lives at home with his single mother, and barely remembers his father. He has no formal diagnosis, but is clearly on the autism spectrum (I am a psychiatric nurse, specializing in autism, and I recognize Eddie’s key features). Abandoned by his now deceased father, who ran off with another woman, Eddie is obsessed with finding his grave somewhere in Copenhagen.

As the storylines alternate, and Sejer pursues the investigation, the reader is pulled deeper into the lives of the mothers and their sons, and the secrets that can shatter families. Fossum, as always, does a meticulous job of rounding out her characters. But, as fleshed out as the cast is, I wasn’t that invested, because they didn’t compel me. The lack of early intervention for Eddie seemed more urgent than the sharing of family secrets, but I don't think Fossum intended it that way. I was more concerned with the medical resources he was lacking than the need to hear the truth about his father.

As for Bonnie and her parents, the past devastation had an impact on her life, but the ties to the theme felt late and forced. Fossum generally hooks me in more fruitfully to her social issues, but in this book, I thought it sputtered. The plot advancement occasionally stalled, and was redundant, and at times I just wanted to get on with it.

It took a while for the tension to mount, while moving toward a few surprise twists towards the end. But, despite a late reveal being organic to the characters, it was also less imaginative and nuanced than the Fossum books that have grabbed me in the past. It could be just individual preferences, but I wasn’t rewarded in the end. It lacked the understated charisma, or the impact, that I usually associate with her books. There was satisfactory closure, but I merely sighed at the end.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2016 9:05 AM PDT


New Balance Women's Fresh Foam Zantev2 Running Shoe, Black/Silver, 8 B US
New Balance Women's Fresh Foam Zantev2 Running Shoe, Black/Silver, 8 B US
Price: $89.95
12 used & new from $89.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent quality shoe. Unfortunately, does not come in half-sizes., June 22, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These would be a 5 star shoe for me if they hadn't run too small. I got these in an 8B, and don't have the option to change sizes. I generally wear an 8, and occasionally an 8.5. However, this shoe only comes in full sizes, so I'd need to go up to a 9, which I'm afraid would be too big, as I've never worn a 9 in any shoe in my life. So, for this reason only, I am knocking off a star. If you are stuck in half sizes, you wouldn't be able to wear this shoe comfortably. If you generally wear a 7.5 shoe, this would be perfect. This was the only downside for me. I wish they made this shoe in half-sizes!

Right out of the box, this shoe looks classy. It's trimmed down to essentials, without bulky add-ons, superfluous bells and whistles, or loud, garish mixed colors. The black is jet or ink black, in a solid, saturated hue. The silver N and the blue touches are subtle, and the white midsole is tasteful, just like this shoe. The sole itself is a dark grey.

The shoe itself is high quality and quite attractive. It is very light, one of the lightest shoe of this class that I've ever owned. The insoles are removable, but so comfortable I would keep them in the shoe; however, if you have your own orthotics, you have the option of switching the insoles to your own.

When I stand up (although, as I said, a half size too small for me, but I can still feel the other pleasures of this shoe), I can immediately feel the cushioned arch support comfort of the shoe. It's like walking on pillowy clouds. Again, I can't believe how light these are. If you were traveling, these would be a cinch to pack without adding any significant weight. The mesh netting will help your feet stay dry, and in this 3-digit Texas heat, that is a prerequisite! This is also one of the few "sleek" looking athletic shoes that come in several widths.

When I was growing up in Massachusetts, I used to go to the NB headquarters in Boston to get my shoes at their warehouse, which cut out the middleman costs. However, NB shoes are so comfortable that even in Texas I continued to buy them. They are also highly recommended by podiatrists; I know because I worked for a few DPMs when I was in nursing school, and they always had NB at the top of the list.

In case I sound like a NB advertiser, let me assure you that I'm not. But, people do tend to get emotionally attached to a shoe brand that is always reliable, comfortable, and well made. Over the years, NB has maintained their quality, and this shoe is no exception. If you currently wear a half-size, order the next one up. If you wear a whole size, this may not be the shoe for you.


USA GEAR UBK DSLR Camera Backpack with Customizable Interior Storage , a Weather Resistant Bottom and Comfort Padded Back Support for Nikon D500 , Canon EOS 80D , Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III and More
USA GEAR UBK DSLR Camera Backpack with Customizable Interior Storage , a Weather Resistant Bottom and Comfort Padded Back Support for Nikon D500 , Canon EOS 80D , Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III and More
Offered by 2nd Street Electronics
Price: $34.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent case for my equipment, June 22, 2016
As an avid amateur photographer and travel enthusiast, I’m in need of various sized bags for various needs and circumstances. While traveling, I often choose a cross-body camera bag would safely contain my photography basics,as well as my tablet, iPod, power bank, headphones, and multiple cords. After extended periods of use, the strap would dig into my shoulder, and the bag flops around on my hip, not an optimal choice for long hikes. So, I decided to explore a different approach, a small backpack case. When I was offered the USA Gear UBK Customizable Camera Backpack in exchange for an honest review, I figured I’d give it a try. The results have exceeded my expectations.

The USA Gear camera backpack is attractive, sturdy, well made, and contains very thick padding to protect my expensive equipment. The interior is customizable with padded Velcro strips that you can move around to gain the perfect fit. I filled it with 2 camera bodies, an assortment of lenses, and my external flash. After closing it, I slowly turned the backpack upside down, lightly shook it from side to side, and everything stayed stationary. The compartments were partitioned and safely held my expensive equipment. Inside the flap are 2 mesh bags that are perfect for holding extra camera batteries, chargers, memory cards, and cords needed for recharging.

The exterior offers even more storage possibilities. There are zippered pockets on both sides of the backpack for easy access to extra batteries, or anything you may need to obtain quickly. There is a larger zippered compartment on the front that easily fits an iPad mini, or similar device. Finally, there is another compartment that I would use for travel documents, passports, maps, and the like. Straps on either side of the backpack could carry a retractable tripod. The padded straps are very comfortable while wearing, even when the pack is filled with heavy camera equipment.

What I like best is the versatility of this pack. I can use it exclusively for my camera equipment, or, when traveling, customize the interior to fit my camera basics, as well as all other items I need for the day, and use it as a daypack. I have every confidence it will protect my gear and my electronic devices. For the size, the convenience, comfort, and flexibility of this backpack, I can sincerely give it 5 stars and a high recommendation.


The American Girl: A Novel
The American Girl: A Novel
by Kate Horsley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.17

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric, but flawed, June 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this noir-ish mystery, a 17 year-old American exchange student, Quinn Perkins, stumbles out of the woods in a small, medieval-esque French village, bloodied and barefoot. She falls into a coma, and subsequently wakes up with no memory of the events that transpired. In fact, she remembers hardly anything about her life, her family, or her circumstances. An obscure Boston journalist, Molly Swift (sounds like a name for a series), pursues the story, with her background boss in the states urging her on. The family that Quinn is staying with, the Blavettes, are missing, which makes Quinn a suspect, witness, or victim in an unidentified crime.

The police have no leads. They ask Quinn to make an ongoing video diary of her thoughts/recall to help her memory return. In the non-linear approach to the story, we know from the opening pages that Quinn is out of her coma and trying to fill in the blanks. We get diary entries, but also entries from her pre-event blog, which are stored on her iPhone, along with other traces of her social media accounts and apps. This alternates with chapters on Molly, who has pretended to be the suspect’s aunt. Now, add a burnt out, stereotypical police detective and some secrets, lies, and a few sociopaths.

Ultimately, this was a mixed bag to me. What I admired about Horsely’s narrative, right from the start, was the tone and voice. These two components can make or break my initial absorption, the incipient lure that makes me want to stay. It is especially difficult when the story is about a teenager, but aimed at adults. Horsely applies a frank, observant approach with moody undertones, and keeps it taut. She also has a knack for teenage psychology.

So--what is the downside?

The plot holes really distracted me. Just to capsulize without spoilers, the incompetence of evidence collection is of epic proportions, but too easily explained away. This was highly implausible for a carefully scrutinized international case that made daily headlines. And where are Interpol and the FBI?

Molly masquerades as Quinn’s relative, and nobody verifies her statement; they let this deceptive journalist saunter into the hospital room every day, without a hint of suspicion. This seemed more like Harriet the Spy meets the Keystone Kops, but without the intended campiness. And where are the expert analysts of social media? Yet, I kept reading, because, despite the author’s failure to stitch together a plausible investigation, there was an atmosphere of mystery and dread that pervaded the text, and a hint of disturbing disclosures to come.

I saw most of the climax coming a mile away, but I was often engaged, anyway, because of Horsely’s atmospherics and provocative adversity. For veteran mystery/thriller readers, however, don’t expect to be blown away. If adapted for film, the right director could clean it up and develop the edgier parts. I expect the author to evolve with future books, but this was a fair debut effort. Trite in parts, but the finale left an imposing image.


Bissell 1806 Power Fresh Deluxe Steam Mop
Bissell 1806 Power Fresh Deluxe Steam Mop
Price: $89.00
2 used & new from $89.00

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saves time, and no fuss, no mess, June 12, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There are a few choice words to express how much I hate mopping the floors. We now have 80% of the house tiled, and 10% laminate, so mopping is not relegated to a small area, like solely the kitchen or bathrooms; it’s almost the entire house. I dislike the mess, the wringing, the rinsing, and dealing with the dirty water. I don’t mind vacuuming, but mopping is so messy and scummy. So, I wanted to see if this appliance would make cleaning floors an easier task. Wow, was I sold! The Bissell 1806 Fresh Deluxe Steam Mop cleans my floors in a fraction of the time I used to spend prepping and mopping, including those gnarly runs to the sink or bucket to rinse the mop.

Out of the box, the assembly was easy. Slide the foot into the body of the steamer, then attach the handle and insert the included screw. Using the Bissell is a breeze. With the included measuring cup, add 15oz of water, (they recommend distilled or mineral free water) to the Bissell, plug in the cord, wait for the “ready" light, and turn on the steam. Choose light steam for general cleaning, and heavy steam for tougher dried on spots. Move the Bissell like you would an upright vacuum cleaner. The 15oz of water cleaned almost the entire house. I had to add a little more near the end of 1800 square feet (that's how much of the house I did). Very little elbow grease is needed, as the steam does a superb job of removing dirt, grease, and grime. Unlike traditional mops, steam-cleaning sanitizes your floors quickly and easily, eliminating 99.9% of germs and bacteria. And you don’t have a germ-filled mop to store at the end of it all.

You can use the on-board "spot boost brush" to scrub away tough, sticky messes. Remove the “foot," and you have a set of stiff bristles that tackle the most challenging jobs. Bissell recommends using no harsh chemicals with the water; it’s not necessary. I used our filtered refrigerator water, as it is demineralized. Also included are a couple of Spring Breeze Scent Discs that you can insert in a small compartment on the front of the foot. They claim to leave the room smelling fresh, and I’m sure you can purchase more at your local grocery store. I’ve never really been into scents, so I passed on using them.

The Bissell appliance has a slim, sleek design that is perfect for under beds, coffee tables, and furniture. It also comes with a very long cord so stopping to change outlets is kept to a minimum. We have a fairly large house, and I finished the job in about 20 minutes. That’s with changing outlets three times, adding water, and waiting for the steam. Floors are clean, sanitized, and with no dirty water to contend with. Simply remove the mop pad from the foot of the Bissell, and machine wash in warm water. Also comes with a ‘scrubbing pad,’ for tougher jobs. The Bissell 1806 Power Fresh Deluxe Steam Mop is worth every penny, as it has taken a rather time consuming and messy task, and made it quick and bearable. I happily give it 5 stars. I’d give it more if I could.


Beatit ® B5 400A Peak 10000mAh Emergency Portable Power Bank Car Jump Starter for Automotive Motorcycle Boat (B5 Black )
Beatit ® B5 400A Peak 10000mAh Emergency Portable Power Bank Car Jump Starter for Automotive Motorcycle Boat (B5 Black )
Offered by Beatit Tech
Price: $79.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crisis averted in minutes!, June 12, 2016
I can think of many a time that I’ve either been late for work because my car wouldn’t start on a freezing morning, left the headlights or interior lights on, played the stereo for lengthy periods of time without the engine running, or after a few years, the battery was just old. Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that batteries die, and you never know when it will happen. Even if you do have jumper cables, you still need to inconvenience another person to obtain that jump. Enter the Beatit B5 400A 10,000 mAH Emergency Portable Powerbank/Jump Starter. With the Beatit you will be on the road within minutes, instead of hours.

The Beatit unit is my third opportunity to test an emergency car jump starter in exchange for an honest review. I had received a similar units from a different manufacturers at a time that my daughter was constantly needing a jump, from leaving her map lights on in the car. She had drained her battery to the point that I felt better replacing her old battery with a new one, as it would no longer hold a charge.

I still have her old battery in the garage, and substituted her old one with my functional battery. Sure enough, my car wouldn't start, as it wouldn’t with my other product tests. Using the Beatit is easy. First attach the battery clamps to the unit, then attach the clamps to the dead battery. The red clamp goes on the positive terminal, the black clamp goes on the negative battery terminal. Press the power button on the Beatit, and voilà, start your car. My car started immediately. For very dead batteries, you may need to wait a few minutes after turning the power on, to let the battery charge, before cranking the engine. Ranked at 8-12 volts, it should jumpstart most vehicle batteries. Last weekend, my neighbor couldn’t get his riding lawnmower started due to a dead battery. He was amazed when I hooked up the Beatit, and it started right up. Truly amazing, and time-saving technology!

This unit also serves as a power bank, and can charge your phone, tablet, or just about any USB device. With a impressive 10,000 mAH ion battery, it will charge your devices multiple times. It also has a built in LED flashlight that was surprisingly powerful, and has an SOS blink, and a strobe feature to use in an emergency. Included are a micro USB cord, the clamps, and the battery unit itself. All of this packaged in a very attractive and sturdy travel case which fits nicely in a backpack or glove box. It is also insured with China Pacific Property and Swiss Re for an indemnity of up to 5 million USD, and comes with a two year warranty.

I consider the Beatit emergency car jump starter/ power bank an insurance policy. When the inevitable battery crisis occurs, you will be ready, and back on the road in minutes, instead of hours. Also a great gift idea for family members.


GearWrench 80300P 1/4-Inch Drive SAE/Metric 6 Point Standard and Deep Socket Set, 51-Piece
GearWrench 80300P 1/4-Inch Drive SAE/Metric 6 Point Standard and Deep Socket Set, 51-Piece
Price: $94.84
31 used & new from $88.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outperforms established competitors, June 10, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This 51 piece GearWrench 80300P socket set will raise a new standard of quality for tools, being described as "better than Craftsman," and on par with Snap-on tools. This ratchet wrench itself has a Double-Stacked Pawl design that provides 120 positions, or clicks in a 360 degree rotation, and delivers an extremely narrow swing arc (3 degrees) that allows easy access to very tight places that other wrenches would fail to reach. Exceeding ASME torque performance standards, the GearWrench offers both quality and performance.

Some may be put off by the small wrench handle which is only 4.5 inches in length, but I see no difference in ergonomics, or performance. Being smaller, it fits in tight spots that would otherwise be inaccessible with my Craftsman set. One may doubt the ability to handle heavy jobs with the larger sized sockets with the small handle (and the 1/4 in connections) but I rarely need any size over a 1/2 in. Those using the 9/16ths regularly may indeed have a concern. For me, the ability to access tight places outweighs any concerns I have with the larger socket sizes.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier with choosing the Gearwrench 51 piece socket set, and agree that it outperforms my old Craftsman set. This GearWrench SAE/Metric set includes both Standard and deep 6pt 1/4in sockets from 3/16ths inch to 9/16ths inch, as well as 4mm to 15mm sockets, a universal joint, 2 inch and 4 inch extensions, and a handy thumbwheel ratchet, which has been more useful than I thought. Also included is a very sturdy, compact, molded plastic case with a removable lid for easy access when storing in your toolbox. With a lifetime warranty, you cannot go wrong with choosing the GearWrench.


Geartist® D30 Car Jump Starter Booster 600A Peak 12000mAh Emergency Auto Jumper for Truck Van SUV + 2-Port USB Power Bank for iPhone & Android Smartphone + Ultra Bright SOS LED flashlight
Geartist® D30 Car Jump Starter Booster 600A Peak 12000mAh Emergency Auto Jumper for Truck Van SUV + 2-Port USB Power Bank for iPhone & Android Smartphone + Ultra Bright SOS LED flashlight
Offered by J&H island
Price: $69.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charge your car battery without needing another car to help. Truly innovative., June 2, 2016
We've all had at least a few times in our lives where we turn the key to start the car....and nothing. Whether you left the headlights on, the interior light, or playing the stereo without the car running--or your battery may just be old--the fact remains that batteries die, and you never know when it will happen. This situation can cause anxiety, stress, and inconveniences to you, and even another person. If you have jumper cables, you still need another car to jumpstart your battery, creating more anxiety. With the Geartist emergency car jump starter/power bank, resolving the dead battery issue couldn't be easier.

The Geartist unit is my second opportunity to test an emergency car jump starter in exchange for an honest review. I had received a similar unit from a different manufacturer at a time that my daughter was constantly needing a jump, from leaving her map lights on in the car. She had drained her battery to the point that I felt better replacing her old battery with a new one, as it would no longer hold a charge.

I still have her old battery in the garage, and substituted her old one with my functional battery. Sure enough, my car wouldn't start. Using the Geartist is easy. First attach the battery clamps to the unit, then attach the clamps to the dead battery. The red clamp goes on the positive terminal, the black clamp goes on the negative battery terminal. Press the power button on the Geartist, and voilà, start your car. My car started immediately. Ranked at 8-12 volts, it should jumpstart most vehicle batteries.

This unit also serves as a power bank, and can charge your phone, tablet, or just about any USB device. With a impressive 12,000 mAH ion battery, it will charge your devices multiple times. It also has a built in LED flashlight that was surprisingly powerful, and has a blink, and a strobe feature to use in an emergency. Included are a micro USB cord, a lighter charging cord, the clamps, and the battery unit itself. All of this packaged in a very attractive and sturdy travel case.

I consider the Geartist emergency car jump starter/ power bank an insurance policy. When the inevitable battery crisis occurs, you will be ready, and back on the road in minutes, instead of hours. Also a great gift idea for family members.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 3, 2016 12:24 AM PDT


The Extra
The Extra
by A. B. Yehoshua
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.00
54 used & new from $9.88

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Grains of sand appeared to me once in a dream. I don't remember why.", May 29, 2016
This review is from: The Extra (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this lean, sensuous, and meditative novel, Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua explores themes of identity, exile, and family. Noga, at almost 42, is a harpist with a Dutch orchestra in the Netherlands. She left Israel years ago—“A country that never ceases to be a threat to itself”--when her marriage ended in divorce, because of her refusal to have children, (which is tantamount to figurative treason to a people who lost so many in the Holocaust). She was recently urged back by her brother, Honi, after the death of their father, to stay in her mother’s apartment while Ima is trying a three-month “experiment” at Honi’s insistence, to live near his family at an assistant living facility in Tel Aviv. He hopes that their mother will move there permanently, but Noga has her doubts.

A chronic insomniac, Noga often wanders between the different beds in her mother’s apartment during the night. She feels displaced, and passionately misses her musical life in the Netherlands. Here in Jerusalem, memories of her past marriage, her father, her old neighbors, and her childhood, invade her nighttime thoughts and dreams. There are issues she hasn’t resolved with her ex-husband, Uriah, which continue to threaten her peace of mind.

Noga seems most comfortable with her solitude, but the neighborhood has gone from secular to Ultra-Orthodox (Hasidic), a close-knit community that doesn't allow TV, are extremely religious, and have many children, often 10 or 11! Noga has to contend with the two kids who have been breaking into Ima’s apartment to watch TV while she is gone every day. Her mother allowed, even encouraged this kind of behavior. Noga’s eventual and inspired solution to stop the willful children is (as is much of the novel), sublimely witty.

In the meantime, Honi, a media professional, has gotten Noga work as a film Extra to relieve the boredom. She works as a murdered refugee, the forewoman in a criminal trial, the first sweetheart of a psychiatrist who spent part of his youth in a mental institution, a disabled woman in a wheelchair, and a country girl in a stage production of Carmen, the opera, at the foot of the ancient fortress of Masada. She realizes that being an extra is like being on the periphery of someone else’s life. While in a warehouse that serves as a set, Noga has an inspired thought: “This entire huge and forbidding warehouse—…—is a metaphor for humanity, and we are all extras in its story, not knowing if a credible and satisfying solution awaits us in the end.”

Noga, it seems, has lost possession of her own personal plot. Playing other people’s extras has blurred her role as the star of her own living script. She must finally take charge of the spotlight in order to be the lead in her life. As she realizes during a tavern film shoot, "Can you tell, based on your experience, who here is an extra, who's a customer, and who's an actor?"

This quiet, reflective, and often humorous narrative is also poignant and piercing, but never mannered or false. The fluid writing flowed as if it were effortless. There were times it felt dreamlike and ethereal. Yehoshua’s prose is graceful, soothing, and intelligent. No formula, no fireworks, but the climactic tension was pitch-perfect.

“Don’t think that everyone else is an extra, without a mind of their own or power of their own. …if you think you’re playing me, you should pick some better notes.”

If you prefer a solidly plotted and straightforward novel, this may not be your cuppa. It's largely a theme and character-based book, and leaves some meaning open for interpretation. It worked for me, but I want to give fair warning that it may come across as too cryptic for some palates.

Praise to Stuart Schoffman for his eloquent translation from the Hebrew.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2016 12:26 PM PDT


The Heavenly Table: A Novel
The Heavenly Table: A Novel
by Donald Ray Pollock
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Violent, graphic, and lewdly entertaining, May 29, 2016
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In Pollock’s last novel, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, the writer wove a tale of religious fanatics and serial killers, lowlifes and outliers. If Quentin Tarantino had a baby with Cormac McCarthy, you might have a son that writes like DRP. His narratives are suffused with gunfights, whores, vigilantes, alcoholics, decayed and diseased animals, religious fanatics, deviant sex, psychopaths, and bloodletting crimes. THE HEAVENLY TABLE is a western style pulp fiction, circa 1917, which starts between the border of Alabama and Georgia, but with most of the action occurring in southern Ohio.

Pollock parodies dime store westerns by creating the main characters, the Jewett brothers, as fans of one particular tattered copy of The Life and Times of Bloody Bill Bucket, the tale of an ex-Confederate soldier turned bank robber. The brothers dream of “gun flights on scorched desert plains and poontang that tasted like honey.”

Cane, the dashing older brother and the only one who can read, hatches a plan. The sharecropping Jewetts have just lost their father, Pearl, and are near-starved with nothing but a sick hog to eat; they work for a cruel and rich landowner, Major Tardweller. In the style of Bloody Bill Bucket, they intend to steal three horses from the Major, rob a bank or three, and ride their way to Canada to start fresh. The middle brother, Cob, is slow-witted but kind-hearted. The youngest, Chimney, is hotheaded, woman-crazy, and impulsive. They are fiercely loyal to one another, however. Before too long, their crime sprees are legendary, with money in their saddlebags and a bounty on their heads. In their wake are carcasses of the unfortunate and depraved.

Woven into the major plotline are other characters that alternate in brief chapters. Ellsworth and Eula Fiddler were swindled out of all their money by a conman the year before, and await the return of their prodigal son, Eddie, who may have joined the army and gone overseas. Blackie, a pimp, runs the “Whore Barn.” Then there is Lieutenant Bovard, jilted by his fiancé but now realizing that he was chasing the wrong gender. And there’s Jasper Cone, an outhouse inspector with a “manhood” so large that he can’t have sex, since it would land any woman in the hospital. His sad social life with his one friend consisted of eating and murdering rodents.

The various subplots do mostly zigzag their way together, and Pollock’s vivid, warped prose about the most debauched and miscreant characters is well-controlled. In a lesser author, these people would seem like cartoon characters, but there’s just enough empathy and humanity for the reader to actually care about most of them, especially poor, clueless Cob, who only wants to live a good life in order to have a feast at the “Heavenly Table” when he goes to the land of the eternal.

Pollack’s Southern Gothic of murder and mayhem in America’s early twentieth century may not be like the one written in our text books--but, scrawled in the imaginary margins of history, of modernization and industrial progress-- is the thick braid of hell and redemption, salvation and savagery, hatred and humanity.

“…nothing is certain in this earthly life except the end of it."


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