Review: Bull Mountain

July 8, 2015 book review, family, Putnam, southern lit 4

Bull Mountain

  • Written by: Brian Panowich
  • Published by: Putnam, Penguin Group, July 7, 2015
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Source: E galley via Edelweiss with permission from publisher for consideration of review

Summary:  “Brian Panowich stamps words on the page as if they’ve been blasted from the barrel of a shotgun, and as with a shotgun blast, no one is safe from the scattered fragments of history that impale the people of Bull Mountain.”—Wiley Cash, New York Times-bestselling author of This Dark Road to Mercy

From a remarkable new voice in Southern fiction, a multigenerational saga of crime, family, and vengeance.

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws.  For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family’s criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can.  But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, the novel brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the mountain and its inhabitants: forbidding, loyal, gritty, and ruthless. A story of family—the lengths men will go to protect it, honor it, or in some cases destroy it—Bull Mountain is an incredibly assured debut that heralds a major new talent in fiction.

My Thoughts:  There is nothing like word of mouth from authors you admire to send you searching for your next book to read.  Earlier this year, both David Joy and M.O. Walsh implored me to get a copy of Bull Mountain, they assured me I would love this gritty and brilliantly penned prose.  Of course they were right.  I’ve come to call these two, and Panowich my country boy authors, real beer and whiskey drinking men, who just happen to write the most amazing books.  The blurb from Wiley Cash didn’t hurt either.

Bull Mountain is about family and entitlement as much as anything else.  Generations of Burroughs men have lived on and relied on  their mountain to survive.  It’s been used for good and evil, from making moonshine, growing marijuana, to methamphetamine houses.  The family has gone so far as to kill one another to keep what they believe is rightfully theirs.  The law doesn’t touch them, it’s as if they’ve drawn a line and left the Burroughs to do their thing.  While reading the family history and it’s current conflict between Sheriff Clayton and his out of control brother, Halford you can taste the bitter riff between them.  The brothers are at opposite ends of right and wrong, driven by their own sense of justice.  Their father lives separate from them both still on the mountain, filled with his own grief, but believing all along he did the right thing for the family.

The added investigation Federal Agent Holly brings to the table takes the story back years, when brutal actions that would seem  forgotten have been festering.  The wide scope of Halford’s illegal businesses are being challenged, his business partners being investigated for larger criminal activity.  Tying the past to the present is an ugly map of terror.

Brian Panowich has created a story filled with human suffering, and the longing for what is right.  My emotions were pulled in every direction.  Most of all, the characters he created will haunt me, but I’ve been told there is more to come.

I highly recommend Bull Mountain, it won’t let you go til the last page, and even then, you’ll want more.

4 Responses to “Review: Bull Mountain”

  1. crimeworm

    This sounds great – I’ve just been approved for it here in the UK, so I think I’ll be making a start. Some impressive fans he has there…

  2. Rhiannon

    I had this on my “long list” but am just not sure I’ll get to it. So many books, so little time! I was really drawn to the GA mountain setting. If there is “more to come” in the way of a sequel, maybe that will motivate me to get to it! Great review, Anita.

Leave a Reply