if your family had spent a hundred years building a solid reputation in
the illegal substances business but you wanted out? When Clayton
Burroughs came down off Bull Mountain, he not only walked away from
his assumed destiny but he crossed the Rubicon, eventually becoming the
sheriff of a neighboring town. But before the first cracks appeared,
the patriarchs ruled with an iron hand:
1949: "Family," the old man said to no one.—Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich (Penguin Random House / Putnam, 2015, p. 1, uncorrected proof)
The word hung in a puff of frozen breath before dissipating into the early-morning fog. Riley Burroughs used that word the same way a master carpenter used a hammer. Sometimes he just gave it a gentle tap to nudge one of his kin toward his way of thinking, but sometimes he used it with all the subtlety of a nine-pound sledge.
- Setting: northern Georgia, mostly contemporary times but with snapshots into the family's past
- Circumstances: When Sheriff Clayton Burroughs is asked by federal marshals to convince his brother Halford, current head of the family, to give up the goods on a Florida gang in return for amnesty, the brothers' delicate ties threaten to dissolve into violence. There's no question that someone is going to get shot, but will the Burroughs boys end up on the same side of the gun?
- Characters: Brothers Clayton, in the law-enforcement business, and Halford, in the drug business; Simon Holly, a federal agent; a variety of other Burroughs men, women, and children; members of the Florida gang; spouses and colleagues
- Genre: dark family saga; Southern fiction; crime/thriller; brothers
- Themes: loyalty, family, destiny, finding one's own path, protecting loved ones
- Structure of the novel: The main action takes place in 2015 and involves Clayton and Halford, but the story is told by multiple people in different locations and during different times. So the plot doesn't follow a single path
- Thoughts & recommendations: This is a gritty, violent book, but not necessarily gratuitously so. There are no distinct lines between good and evil, here. People may not have made the choices you would have, but their motivations are often reasonable. Panowich's writing is rich and accessible, pulling you into this family story. If you like the television show Justified, then you'd probably like Bull Mountain.
- Miscellaneous: Brian Panowich is a professional musician turned full-time firefighter. He lives in Georgia and this is his debut novel. Although Bull Mountain is a standalone book, Panowich has expressed interest in revisiting the world he created in the north Georgia hill country.