Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich is a multigenerational tale of one family's history of crime and vengeance in rural Georgia (available July 14, 2015),
For a debut novel, Brian Panowich really knocks it out of the ballpark. The text is tight, and the prose is just right. The raw and emotional writing has spikes of action that keeps pulling you along from page to page. I was attracted to this book because it is set a little close to home for me. Panowich brings a genuine southern flair to the book with descriptions, slang, and, oh boy, the occasional food description. He nails the setting and the feel of the south, along with some of the more eccentric characters you sometimes meet in this part of the world. In other words, I can see his fictional Burroughs clan being a real thing – down to their idiosyncrasies and their generational drug trade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me tell you a little about the family.
The Burroughs have lived in Georgia on Bull Mountain for many years. They have passed down the land along with their legacy. The family business had been moonshine until one of the Burroughs got greedy and decided to move on to marijuana, and eventually meth. No one messed with them and they stayed on their mountain, just the way they liked it, until one of the Burroughs effectively broke the mold and became a police officer.
Enter Clayton Burroughs.
The youngest of the current bloodline, he’s an alcoholic, and despite his profession, he stays loyal to his family who have all but disowned him. Mostly he wants to keep out of the affairs on the mountain, but when special agent Simon Holly arrives ready to bust the family drug ring, this all changes.
Clayton was a complicated character with plenty of faults. He’s the black sheep of the family. Coming from generations of lawlessness, he has broken the mold, but blood runs deep.
Clayton stared at the ceiling. Thirty-five heavy timber logs made of the same white pine that grew not twenty feet outside his bedroom window. He and his father had built the house together as a wedding gift for Kate before she and Clayton were married. His father was nearly seventy then and still worked like a man in his twenties. That was more than a decade ago and not once did that purlin roof ever let in a single drop of rain – not once.
Another thing I really enjoyed was Panowich’s portrayal of the main female character, Kate. She is feisty, fun, and fiery. I would have liked to see more of her. She’s a particularly tough woman who, despite her obvious loyalty to her husband, can also stand on her own with no problem. In the following excerpt we see how Special Agent Holly reacts when he sees Kate for the first time:
Kate came out on the porch holding a .30-.30 before Holly could open the door on Clayton’s side of the Crown Vic. Holly knew about Kate. He knew from photos that she was beautiful, but her standing there with that rifle, in nothing but an oversized nightshirt, put her on the list of the top ten sexiest women he’d ever seen. The porch light silhouetting her legs through the thin material drove her up to the top five.
In this exchange between Kate and Holly you also get a bit of her personality:
I don’t care what your intentions are. I just want my husband to come home to me every night whole. Tonight is your one pass. But after tonight, if you get him hurt again, if anythinghappens to that man while he’s acting on your behalf, I don’t care who you are, or what your intentions were, you’re going to have to answer to more than just the Lord. Are we clear on that, Special Agent Holly?
I would like to see more about Kate in another book, or novella maybe.
Panowich’s descriptions of Bull Mountain were rich and gritty. I loved the way it was written in a linear fashion, showing the generations of Burroughs, and the family’s general dysfunction. Early on he gives a glimpse into some of the earlier generations of Burroughs, and a younger Bull Mountain, anchoring the reader into the deep passion and loyalty to this unforgiving land.
Panowich’s care in crafting the Burrough’s world left me feeling like I knew them, and it all builds to an ugly, hard-hitting, and satisfying end rendering it a fun and interesting read well worth your time.
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Amber Keller is a writer who delves into dark, speculative fiction, particularly horror and suspense/thrillers. You can find her work on herAmazon Author Page and she also features many short stories on Diary of a Writer. A member of the Horror Writers Association, she contributes to many websites and eMagazines and you can follow her on Twitter at@akeller9.