cover image Hard Times

Hard Times

Les Edgerton. Bronzeville, $12 trade paper (198p) ISBN 978-1-952427-08-4

At 14, Amelia Laxault, the kindhearted heroine of this feverish Depression-era crime novel from Edgerton (The Bitch), learns that a girl can expect no mercy in rural East Texas. A brief dalliance with sympathetic outsider Billy Kilber is ended by her father, who’s content to see her married to Arnold Critchin, a mean, shiftless neighbor. Despite multiple childbirths during years of mistreatment, Amelia remains faithful to her vows, even when tempted to break them once Billy returns to the area as sheriff. After Arnold’s arrest for moonshining, Amelia and the kids are left to starve in their isolated farmhouse. Meanwhile, Lucious Tremaine, who has fled New Orleans after being provoked into shooting two cops, winds up on Amelia’s doorstep—just as Arnold breaks out of jail and heads home. What happens inside the house is horrendous, but what happens when Arnold drags his oldest daughter into a swamp, with Lucious and Billy in pursuit and a tornado bearing down on them, is way over the top. Edgerton’s restrained prose lends some credibility to the melodrama. Those with a taste for Southern gothic will be satisfied. (Dec.)