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A Single Shot Paperback – April 7, 1997

3.7 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 alternate Paperback edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

Backwoods blood and gore from the author whose previous expeditions into the grotesque (The Cooter Farm, 1991; The Elements of Hitting, 1994) have shown just how far we can go down Tobacco Road. John Moon is the sort of country boy who makes his living by killing things in the forest. Unhappily divorced from a wife who looks upon him as no-account trash, he sets out at the beginning of the story to patch things up by poaching a deer for her, but he accidentally shoots a young girl instead. This is his first mistake, and even John can see that it's a big one. ``He thinks of the hundreds of animals he has shot, gutted, and cut into strips of meat. . . . Blood is blood, he thinks, wiping the girl's on his pants. And dead is dead.'' What to do? Well, of course the police are out of the question, so John very sensibly locks the girl's corpse in his freezer along with his venison steaks and tries to go on as before. Unfortunately, however, the girl had a very mean boyfriend who deals drugs and just happens to be an old prison friend of one of John's neighbors. John's attorney, Daggard Pitt, suspects that something is up, but John can't quite bring himself to trust the lawyer (he used to work for the bank that foreclosed on his parents' farm), and he manages to dig himself a very deep hole in short order. There's a climactic bloodbath, and along the way we're treated to a fair amount of sleazy hillbilly sex, but this is nevertheless a story aiming to be about moral regeneration, written in the most tragic Faulknerian mode. The tragedy here, though, seems merely to degrade with an even hand, and it's not at all clear at the end that anyone has truly been saved. Powerfully written but ultimately empty. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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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: #5,133,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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: Paperback Verified Purchase
I hesitated to give this 5 stars rather than 4 stars since I rarely rated something so highly. There are at least two reasons it gets 5 stars instead of 4. Here's one: The narrative structure is like reading a series of dreams in which the protagonist confronts both real and imagined ghosts. This is extremely effective literary device and, at times, it is quite beautiful. Jones sketches all of these ghosts so convincingly and so mysteriously that the plot becomes almost secondary -- and the plot, centered around a broken man and the land on which he lives, is excellent in its own right -- that a reader doesn't want to put the book down until the final conclusion.

A second reason I'd rate it highly is because the novel is ahead of its time while respecting a classic trope from the past. The book (published in the mid-1990s) is ahead of its time given the post-recession landscape full of meth and broken factories (at least where I'm from) that has engulfed many parts of the United States in the 21st Century. At the same time, having read David Goodis' "The Burglar" earlier this year, I can see how Jones put his ending here into conversation with closing scenes from that classic of noir.

Ultimately, this is a book that lives up to its billing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's nice to read something a little different. From the plot to the settings to the characters, everything is a little messy and complicated, but it's a very interesting story. Probably the biggest compliment I can give a writer is that the story does not feel overly contrived; i.e., the dialogue, decisions, and actions of the characters feel organic. That's definitely the case here.

It's not often that I feel satisfied after reading a book, but this one was well done.
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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: Paperback
A SINGLE SHOT

John Moon's life changes in a single second -- he accidentally shoots a woman, finds a ton of cash, and is now on the run for his life.

While I found this book to be a three star -- IT'S OKAY -- I felt as if I were trespassing into a man's world. This book had me feeling as if I were not supposed to be reading it. It just seems like a total guy book. Does that make sense? Well, it does to me.

Author Matthew F. Jones certainly does have a story to tell. There are many gruesome details, sexual situations, tender moments, suspense, some twists and turns. John Moon is certainly a character to be reckoned with. He has a conscience, means well, stands up for himself; however, things just don't go well for John Moon. Nothing goes his way, people aren't who he thought they were, he is totally on is own in his confusion and flight for his life. I must admit I never saw the ending coming -- it is probably one of the most startling endings I have ever read in a book. Completely unexpected -

If you like a story that is full of guns, girls, guts, glory, this is a book for you. I am glad to have read this book; however, most people will probably enjoy it more than I was able to.
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