A Tree Born Crooked, by Steph Post, Pandamoon Publishing[click HERE]
The Pandamoon publishing site calls A Tree Born Crooked a Southern thriller. Here is their synopsis:
Thirty-six year old James Hart has a tough-as-nails exterior and an aching emptiness inside. The only one in his family to leave his stagnant birthplace in Crystal Springs behind, James is filled with a burning spark of restlessness and anger that keeps him roaming from one trailer park and temporary job to another. Out of the blue, James gets an unsigned postcard from his mother, Birdie Mae, informing him of his father’s death.
Left with no choice, James finally heads home to Florida and to a collapsed rural town running on the fumes of the occasional interstate tourists speeding through. It is a place where dreams are born to die. Here, James discovers that he is too late for his father’s funeral, but just in time to learn of his younger brother, Rabbit’s, new scam of stealing copper wire, trading it for Oxycodone pills, and then selling the drugs to the girls at the local strip club.
The lone bright spot during James’ return home is meeting the beautiful Marlena, who works in her father’s bar called The Blue Diamond. At this local watering hole, James learns of Rabbit’s newest easy money scheme, but is unable to convince Rabbit to curtail his plan which is doomed to fail. James is helpless as he watches Rabbit, high on Oxycodone, become part of a robbery-turned-murder. As if that isn’t bad enough, it appears Rabbit is now being double-crossed by his partners in crime, one of whom may very well be Marlena’s father, Waylon, who disappears. Throw in the Alligator Mafia, the local group of redneck gangsters, and Rabbit is soon on the run of his life with Marlena who wants find her father, and James, who wants to protect them both.
Together, the three embark on a journey across the state hoping to find enough time to come up with a solution to their escalating tragedy. With the Alligator Mafia hot on their tracks, time and a lucky break are both in short supply.
I understand that Florida qualifies geographically as a Southern state, however, its native literature is its own unique sub-genre of sun-bleached, swamp-soaked, hard luck, macho-plated, ravaged soul tragedies about the good gone bad and the bad gone crazy and all of it gone wrong, again and again, until dreams and hopes dissolve into an impossible to breathe, overheated, blazing haze of desuetude.
Such is the milieu in which Steph Post sets her tale. When it began, the book’s energy reminded me of John Sandford and Harlan Coben, leaving me to suspect that the 36-year-old anti-hero, James Hart, would be introduced in this volume as Prodigal Son of depressed Crystal Springs, and spend another few novels dragged reluctantly down into explorations of the sad town’s sadder underbelly. I was not surprised then when the novel’s final sentence opened that door.
Steph Post has bravely created a cast of characters, none of whom one would want to cross, or, perhaps, even, meet. They do not – for the most part – generate a great deal of empathy, as it seems they repeatedly make ill-considered decisions and hurt one another with little consideration of the damage they might be doing. They are magnets for hard luck and trouble, and as James, his brother, Rabbit, and the real brains of the trio, Marlena, bolt through the backwoods of Florida – pursued and pursuing – nothing much good happens. As they uncover layers of treachery and duplicity, they are also forced to confront their own and each others’ dishonesty and self-deception. Trust and happy endings – or middles – are in short supply while disappointments assuaged by drugs and drink and cigarette butts litter the scenes.
A Tree Born Crooked is saturated with the stink of desiccated dreams and desires, sodden with guilt and the keening ache of lives despairing and emptied. Steph Post is an author to watch.
I requested and was sent an advance review copy of A Tree Born Crooked by the author, Steph Post. I write about books because I love reading, love writers, love words, and, in most cases, I buy my copies of books. I am not remunerated for my blog, don’t sell ad space, and in no way profit (believe me) so what I write, I mean. I am not a book reviewer, I am a book appreciator.