Bull Mountain Brian Panowich, review by Bruce Jacobs
Ever since Daniel Woodrell successfully launched the niche genre of "country noir" in the '80s, bookshelves have filled with crime novels set in the rural mountains and backwoods of the South. A road-weary singer-songwriter and professional firefighter in east Georgia, Panowich plants his Bull Mountain squarely on those same shelves among the classic works of Woodrell, Larry Brown and James Lee Burke. It's that good. As in the best of this lot, his minor lowlife characters are often the most entertaining--criminals such as Hal's big, black enforcer Val ("like a mountain of Kentucky coal in a flannel shirt") or the aging mastermind behind the gun dealers ("a few gray survivors stretched over his bald head in a comb-over that even he had to know looked ridiculous"). There are few women on the mountain (in the roles of either mother or whore--or both) except Clayton's wife, Kate, who serves as an anchor in his conflicted life. After Panowich's plot follows its twisting path to a surprising ending, it is clear that this is but the first of what could be a Bull Mountain run of fine cracker crime fiction.
Bruce Jacobs's review first appeared in Shelf Awareness.