- File Size: 1232 KB
- Print Length: 230 pages
- Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1643132237
- Publisher: Pegasus Crime (October 1, 2019)
- Publication Date: October 1, 2019
- Sold by: Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B07P97LLXD
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,286,952 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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From the Publisher
“Dry County will hopefully earn Jake Hinkson the fanbase he deserves. He’s subtle in his preciseness, revealing an evil that doesn’t seem so threatening at first glance. By the time we’ve reached that last line, we’ve stared straight in the eye, and maybe chuckled.”, MysteryPeople (Pick of the Month)
“Set against the backdrop of the 2016 election, Hinkson’s darkly satirical take on power and hypocrisy closes with a shocking but fitting twist.” -- Booklist
“Set in rural Arkansas, this unapologetically bleak noir explores the effects of existential and spiritual despair in an economically depressed town where the influence of religious fundamentalism is stifling. Powered by raw emotional intensity and a disturbingly realistic portrayal of small-town America, this story is unforgettable.”, Publishers Weekly (starred)
“As the principals take turns plotting their next moves, things predictably spiral out of control with all the horrifyingly matter-of-fact force of Scott Smith’s parable A Simple Plan as Hinkson leads his all-too-human hero step by step into a monstrous pool of corruption. The whole sad carnival comes crashing to an unforgettable halt.” , Kirkus Reviews
“Dry County is a hillbilly noir jewel. Jake Hinkson reveals the underbelly of small town life in this gritty thriller as he depicts the fall of a Southern preacher. An absorbing tale.” -- Nancy Allen, New York Times bestselling author
“Jake Hinkson’s Dry County breathlessly propels readers through the noir landscape of small-town Arkansas, laying bare its hypocrisies and baser impulses. Imagine Breaking Bad’s Walter White as the pastor of a Baptist Church; Hinkson’s Brother Weatherford’s fall is as far, as dark, and as deep.” -- John Copenhaver, author of Dodging and Burning
“From its gripping first pages, the reader knows he or she is in the hands of an expert storyteller. Dry County is a dark, noir-ish tale that weaves religion, politics, family betrayals, and violence, all centered around the forgotten small towns of rural Arkansas. Jake Hinkson spins a story that just holds onto you and doesn’t let go. Highly recommended.” -- Brendan DuBois, three-time Shamus Award winner and bestselling author
“A day in a small town with big secrets is the setting for this perfect storm of a book. Jake Hinkson takes the reader on a white-knuckle ride in a world where good people have done bad things. I couldn’t put it down.” -- Aoife Clifford, author of All These Perfect Strangers and Second Sight
“Desire, desperation, and despair collide in Jake Hinkson's bleakly imagined and perfectly rendered vision of small-town Arkansas. Religion, respectability, hope for the future—virtue is the flip side of vice and Hinkson drives that truth sharply home. ” -- S. J. Rozan, bestselling author of Ghost Hero --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
About the Author
Charles Constant has been a storyteller from a young age―just ask the grammar-school teachers who had the misfortune to try to collect homework from him. His professional storytelling career began at the age of thirteen, when became an Actor's Equity Association apprentice, and his training later continued in Chicago and London. A resident of Los Angeles, he appears on stage across the country, narrates audiobooks, and occasionally performs on television and in film.
Pete Cross earned his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and has been narrating audiobooks since 2015. He received an Audie nomination for 2016's A Time to Die. In 2017, he garnered both an Earphones Award and a Parent's Choice Award for his narration of Openly Straight. An Ohio native, he spent eight years in Los Angeles where he coached actors, was lucky enough to work with French director Quentin Dupieux, and despised the traffic.
Cassandra Campbell has recorded over one hundred audiobooks and directed many more. She has received eight AudioFile Earphone Awards, as well as being nominated for and Audie Award. As an actress and director, she has worked off Broadway and in regional theaters across the country, as well as doing voice work on numerous commercials and films.
Devon Sorvari is a graduate of NYU's Circle in the Square and The Classical Studio and has nationwide theatre credits ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. An Earphones Award winner and an Audie Award nominated voice actor, she has narrated more than fifty audiobooks. Specializing in young-adult fiction, she was raised on the East Coast but is based in Los Angeles. --This text refers to the audioCD edition.
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The exploration into sexual politics and sexual orientation is neither pedantic nor an affectation. Hinkson's ability to hone in on small-town mindsets, as well as small-town evangelical theology is astonishing. Having been raised in the south and having attended seminary, Hinkson's story is true to form. These things happen with greater frequency than most religious institutions are will to admit or address.
Weatherford finds himself in a different dilemma with a local business owner (Brian Harten) who is attempting to open a liquor store in a dry county. Brian and Weatherford are at odds with each other as one man is just trying to make a living, and the other is trying to uphold the core family/religious values he represents in his local community. The two of them are odds with each until an occasion arises where mutual need becomes paramount. This is where things go sideways.
Like any good noir novel, things have to pop off, and a variety of interrelated narratives weave together to culminate into a total melee of existential questions. Where I netted out on this novel is that Hinkson loves to explore human motivations. Even the most sacrosanct characters are capable of evil. Some evil I would say is ordinary, but other aspects in this novel made me ask a simple question: are all of us capable of extraordinary evil to protect ourselves and the ones we love? The latter part of the question implies that we are motivated by some sense of good. And that grey area is where Dry County shines. It's not clear if any of these characters are truly motivated by anything other than their own need.
The story itself is fast paced. The prose is class Hinkson: stripped down, where less is more. And while it took me way longer to finish the book than it should have (life just got in the way sometimes), I could not get this damn story out of my head...and I still can't.
For those of us that have known Jake's work back in the indie publishing days, feel confident that while he's grown as a storyteller, the brand that is clearly Jake Hinkson is written on these pages.
Dry County is easily one of the best novels I've read this year. It could easily be turned into an awesome film as well.
If you enjoy dark southern noir, Dry County will certainly fill that void.
"No offer of salvation seems implausible to a man desperate to be saved."
— Jake Hinkson, DRY COUNTY
Most fast-paced crime novels sacrifice character depth for plotting convenience and thematic breadth for distracting twistiness, but DRY COUNTY is that rarest of creatures — a crime novel that casts a long and lingering light into the shades of gray that curdle good into evil while maintaining the propulsive pacing of a supermarket-check-out-counter paperback thriller.
It would take a while to properly unpack the plot, but suffice to say that everything centers around Richard Weatherford, a pastor — though he prefers "preacher" — of a modestly successful church in small-town Arkansas. He's good at what he does, offering leadership that can be as uncompromising as uplifting, but he's missing something — "compassion," his wife Penny asserts — and he's carrying a heavy secret that can't possibly stay secret. So when blackmail comes calling, he's got to decide if his darkness is weakness, or if he can find an even darker strength within it. Circling him like witches in MACBETH are Penny, who sees more than Richard thinks he does; Brian, whose drive to bring a liquor store to his dry county is a front for his financial desperation; Gary, who thinks getting out of town is best cure for his depression, but needs money to get there; and Sarabeth, who loves Gary—or at least tolerates his love—and sees him, and Richard, as the vehicles to her own fresh start; and Tommy, the local white-trash crime lord, whose businesses are threatened by the push by the push to turn the dry county into a wet one. Suffice to say, their paths all collide one one long dark night, and not everybody gets out alive.
The plot, knockout as it is, is but a secondary pleasure of DRY COUNTY. Its true brilliance is in its thoughtful, nuanced depictions of people who are neither all good or all bad, but find themselves forced by circumstance to break bad to varying degrees. Richard, in particular, is capable of acknowledging his flaws, at least to himself, but what he really needs to know is if he's capable of convincingly wallpapering them over, because there's only so much deference a preacher's congregants will give him before they wonder if they're following the wrong leader. Some of DRY COUNTY's best passages come from Richard's reflections on his personal and professional challenges:
"I’ve played my part well. But beyond my performance, what is real? I preach salvation, but the truth is that I see very little worth saving. I proclaim miracles, but I only see biology, physics, and coincidence misinterpreted through the lens of ignorance and superstition. I preach your love, but sometimes the only thing that seems more outlandish than your existence is the idea that you love us. Could it all, in the end, mean nothing? Would that be better?"
"Most of them believe me. Most of them have never given the question of life and death serious thought. Most of them were told as children that the death of Jesus somehow means that they themselves will never really die, and they have believed it ever since. Although the exact mechanics of this theology are as uninteresting to them as the exact mechanics of their cell phone, their theology, like their phone, does what it is supposed to do. That’s all they need to know."
What's equally great about DRY COUNTY are the things it doesn't do. It doesn't take cheap shots at the faith or politics or culture of its small-town Southerners. They're smart and dumb; they're hardworking and lazy; they're searching and complacent. Just like anybody we know, any place we've been. It doesn't smother itself in Southern Gothic Porn like so much gravy atop a chicken-fried steak; it is a novel of its place but accessible to all. And for all those seemingly ponderous passages above, it's a sleekly paced novel that demands to be finished in a day. And the prose is terrific, full of perfect fingernail-parings of acute observation and epiphany. A sampling:
— “I was a little late this morning,” I tell him, “and now she’s acting like I’ve been out campaigning for Hillary."
— "The north of Arkansas ain’t nothing but trees. The bottom of the state ain’t nothing but swamp."
— "Well, your granddaddy only believed in two things—the United States Marine Corps and the Southern Baptist Convention—and if he’d lived long enough to see some longhair beating drums on a Sunday morning, I think he would have shot somebody.”
— "I thought of having it fixed, but the only thing I can imagine that would repulse Richard more than my body would be the cost of a surgery or two to fix it."
— "She’s been mad at me since I came back home to live. Dad is the kind of guy who can love you without it costing him anything. He’s got an endless amount of love to give, and he’s always eager to give you more. Mom isn’t that way. She loves you, but she lets you know that it costs her something to do it."
— "I could follow Frankie, maybe jump him going back out to his car after his last collection and then knock him on the head, but that’s too risky. This ain’t the movies. I’m pretty sure if you hit a guy on the head, all you’ll do is hurt his head."
— "If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’ve become the kind of preacher that I always detested. I’m just another spiritual babysitter."
— "I drive to the Exxon and use the payphone like a drug dealer in the seventies."
— "Because America’s contribution to Christian thought is the idea that a God that won’t promise to make you rich isn’t a God worth serving, the reality is that a portion of my congregation can only think of life—even the Christian life—in material terms."
— "She was one of the ill-parented pieces of white trash that occasionally blows into church and lands in the youth group until the next gust of wind sweeps them away."
— "The day I die, the traffic lights will keep changing from red to green, and Burger King will keep selling hamburgers, and the world will just go on about its business."
(Sorry, I'm overquoting here, but the writing is that good.)
Jake Hinkson is one of those novelists who's cultivated a cult reputation in the darker circles of the crime-fiction community, and while he's popular in France, he remains a criminally overlooked, underground figure in his own country. I'm not sure why he hasn't found a wider audience. Maybe because he's regional but not too regional; because he's noir and yet hopeful; because he doesn't write about aspirational people in aspirational places. Whatever the case, Jake Hinkson has everything a splashy mainstream crime novelist should have. Except maybe a big-league marketing push.
I'd call DRY COUNTY a perfect novel, but we all know nobody but God is perfect, right, and no plan but his can be perfect as well? That's a lesson Richard Weatherford, and the people in his malignant orbit, learn the hardest way possible. But DRY COUNTY comes as close to perfect as I've come across. And that's the sort of thing that, like a hymn, should be shouted from the mountaintops.