The Hour of Lead

Bruce Holbert. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61902-292-8
Holbert’s second novel (after Lonesome Animals) is a dark, sad tale, set among the hardscrabble farms and ranches of eastern Washington state between 1918 and the early 1970s. The book vividly portrays the harsh lives of its unhappy characters in a crushing atmosphere of despair and violence. Young Matt Lawson loses his father and twin brother in a blizzard in 1918, leaving him to run the family ranch with his grief-stricken mother. As Matt matures, he courts Wendy, the grocer’s daughter. But she shoots him one night, under somewhat murky circumstances. For 13 years he wanders the West fighting, gambling, and drinking, until he falls in with the hateful Jarms family. Under their bad influence, Matt becomes an accomplice in arson and multiple murders. Matt has a child and falls out with the Jarmses, escaping with his child back to eastern Washington, where he reunites with Wendy. Decades later, after they marry, raise his child, and have children of their own, Matt’s past catches up with him. One of the Jarms boys comes for revenge, aided by Lucky Jefferson, a corrupt county sheriff and former rival for Wendy’s attention. Jefferson is a brutal man who also has a long-simmering, very personal score to settle with Matt. Holbert’s clever conclusion offers several surprising twists and some satisfaction, in this bleak story about people whose desperate pursuit of happiness is just a cruel illusion. Agent: Janet Rosen, Sheree Bykofsky Associates Inc. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 07/01/2014
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-61902-550-9
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-61902-380-2
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