After reading Heath Lowrance’s superb Dig Ten Graves, a short story collection with a hell of a lot of bite, I decided to read his debut novel The Bastard Hand, which had been sitting on my Kindle unread for far too long. Let’s put it this way: the next thing Heath releases is going straight on my Kindle where it’s likely to be devoured in one greedy sitting. The guy is that good!
Charley Wesley is your typical noir protagonist: down-on-his-luck, sad, bad, and quite possibly mad, too. He’s also something more, but revealing that would spoil things. After running afoul of a gang who steal his money and leave him for dead, he is befriended by a rather unorthodox preacher called Phineas Childe, who has somea rather strange notions about what is fitting behaviour for a man of God. Childe takes Wesley to the small town of Cuba Landing where he is to take up the vacant preacher’s post there. Nobody quite knows what happened to the former preacher at Cuba Landing, but the fact that Wesley has the man’s bible and it has a bullet hole through it tells you that things are going to go very badly by the time the story winds to a close.
The Bastard Hand is a strange novel, but in a good way. It mixes plain old noir sensibilities with southern gothic and adds a dash of religion and well… again, to say more would spoil it, and this is the kind of novel that is best experienced fresh. It is superbly and economically written in a hardboiled manner. One example of Lowrance’s excellence can be found in the description of Mack Aarons – a maker of moonshine whiskey:
Ugly, the first thing that came to mind. But ugly is such a small and subjective word, it really didn’t do justice to the exquisite disaster of Mack Aarons’s face. It was the kind of ugly that went to the bone.
Lovely, and it’s just one of many, thrown off with the casual manner that only the truly talented can ever really master. The plot strands are well handled and characters who seem to have no relevance at the beginning of the tale take on a real significance at the end. It winds itself up very nicely and has a nice degree of carnage too.
Download it today. Chances are, once you start reading it you won’t be able to stop!