Jedidiah Ayres is a freak. Like in freaking brilliant.
If you ever thought country noir isn´t a thing, it is.
Peckerwood *giggles* Okay, the title and the cover artwork should give a hint or two that the book is of the weird kind, but since I am always fascinated with the oddballs and outsiders it´s exactly my type of book I love to read.
Set in deepwater backward hillbilly country, sort of, where arguements are resolved with the shotgun or a good asswhuppin, Terry Hickerson has a pretty damn good life, except when he doesn´t. Blackmail, robbery, a best friend and a teenage son to drive him home when boozed out in a watering hole. That´s a life worth dying for.
All the characters are losers, really, but there is something touching about them that it is impossible not to love them. They are low-life criminals for the most parts, and kicking other losers around for sports is perfectly acceptable as a way to spend their time. Works for me.
Nevertheless none of them feels pictured as some kind of "white trailer park thrash", but people who try to get by without putting all that much effort into their lives. Of course there is a lot of typical cussing going on, which isn´t a cheap shot, but used to bring the likes of Terry to life in a way that seems authentic. They are not the most literate kind, but mainly lazy folks, stupid too, alright, and it is clear they will never go anywhere. Not that they want to. Everyone is perfectly fine in their skin, which adds to liking the characters even more. They don´t pretend to be someone they are not, and if that means they piss themselves when drunk then so be it.
Ayres fucks around with his characters alot, though, and he seems to be that kind of guy who loves to kick them around like puppies. Which obviously adds to the fun in this case, since they are indeed losers and nothing is ever going to change that.
Partners in crime Sheriff Mondale and Chowder Thompson run the small town of Spruce. Mondale has some sort of moral excuse he tells himself since Thompson is not only a meth dealer but also a respectable business man on the surface who brings in the most tax dollars to keep the town running. So a killing or two when needed to keep outsiders from mengling does not hurt anyone (except those who turn up later in some shallow grave, but that´s a different story altogether). Better the devil you know and everything. Chowder, however, is a hardcore criminal and whatever serves his own interests best is good enough for him.
The prose is magnificent, and the humor dark, dry and almost always inappropriate. Witty too. Of the WTF kind and where the hell did that come from sort. Haven´t laughed so hard in a while. It´s the how Ayres punches his lines around that makes Peckerwood such a joy to read. It is crisp, and grim and yeah, brilliant.
Narrated via multiple POVs Peckerwood gives every main character a chance to shine, while it feels like a puzzle to be solved. Several subplots are intertwined into a bigger picture. Very appropriate with the small town setting where every one knows every one´s else dirty laundry and business. One piece at a time comes to light, and life, or as it is a buried body coming up too, even not exactly to life again.
Every chapter, seen through either Terry Hickerson, Sheriff Mondale or Chowder Thompson, adds to the story, and only when deep down inside some things from the very beginning actually makes sense. But once used to the constant shifts it is obvious Peckerwood is just perfect how it is constructed, and could not have been told any other way. it is crime fiction alright, but the mood and vibe focus a ton on the characters, so it does feel like a bit as I am looking over their shoulders, laughing at their stupidity, shaking my head in disbelief in what kind of mess they have brought themselves again.
Peckerwood is one of my fave books so far this year, and a keeper, no doubt.