Snotchocheez's Reviews > Hell at the Breech

Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin
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's review
Dec 10, 2010

it was amazing
Read in November, 2010

From the opening lines of Tom Franklin's debut novel "Hell at the Breech", you know that you're in store for something refreshingly different, and powerful, and and and and (dare I say?) evil and wretched, and know you're holding the end product of some amazing story-telling talent.

His account of the very-real Mitcham Beat "war" (hardly a war, more like an extreme case of territorial pissing, in light of the war-to-end-all-wars twenty years or so preceding it) in antebellum southern Alabama is haunting, surreal, poetic, and, were it not so disgustingly vile in its depiction of the horrid violence that ensued from this "war", almost totally impossible to stop reading once you've started.

The two things (of a laundry list) that most impressed me about this book:

1. Its ability to transcend genre. While many reviewers here have labelled it a "western" (probably not unwarranted, given its horses and vigilante lynch mobs, even though it takes place in Southern Alabama) this bit of historical fiction, with its lyrical prose and sharp wit, make it almost un-catagorizable. (I, in general, am not a fan of either the Western or Historical Fiction genres...but I sure loved this book) I saw it more as a cautionary tale of power corrupted...and the capriciousness of acts of war not thought out clearly...but if you're a fan of Westerns or Historical Fiction, you won't be disappointed, though.)

2. The earnestness of the story. The violence depicted in this tale comes so perilously close to being over the top it almost comes across as as form of torture porn or something...yet the plain-spokenness, and very very real depiction of the main characters keeps the story grounded in
reality...the depiction of violence seems almost obligatory and necessary, not gratuitous.

Overall, HIGHLY recommended reading.


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