What can I say of this slice of Southern Noir other than I loved it? Anyone who read my review of Eryk Pruit’s novel Dirtbags will know that I have a real love of this sub-genre of crime fiction, and like Pruit’s offering, Jedidiah Ayres doesn’t disappoint with Peckerwood.
There are three main characters in this novel: Terry Hickerson, the archetypal small-time hillbilly loser; Jimmy Mondale, a corrupt small town sheriff; and my personal favourite, ex–biker, Meth Kingpin and all round badass Chowder Thompson. For much of the novel their three individual stories are barely related. Hickerson who scrapes a living sticking up stores for pocket change, hits on the idea with equally small-time partner to blackmail a gay evangelical preacher. Oh and he’s screwing Sheriff Mondale’s daughter. The Sheriff, for his part, has his plate full with trying to avoide being indicted by a District Attorney on the warpath. And Chowder? Well he just wants to retire and hopes that his little girl, who’s quick with her fists and more than a match for any man, can keep her head enough to not run her inherited criminal enterprise into the ground.
Without giving away any spoilers, the strands of this murky tale all converge when tragedy strikes and Mondale has it in for the Hickerson. Things come to a glorious head and it’s left open for a (much anticipated on my part) sequel.
As with Dirtbags, this is a violent, white-knuckle rollercoaster of a read. If you like your humour inky black then this is just might be for you. The characters are well rounded, not sympathetic exactly, though you do develop a grudging empathy for them. At least I did for Sherriff Mondale, and I could quite help myself from cheering for Chowder.
I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.