The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart

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Overview

Meet Trenchmouth Taggart, a man born and orphaned in 1903, a man nick-named for his lifelong oral affliction. In the West Virginia coal mine wars, a boy hardens quick when he picks up a gun. Exile is his trophy, and he spends his adult years on the run. He changes his name and plays a mean mouth harp, and he keeps on running from his past, all the way to Chicago. But trouble will sniff even an old man down, and an outlaw will eventually run home. Here, Trenchmouth Taggart's story, like the best ballads, etches ...

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The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart

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Overview

Meet Trenchmouth Taggart, a man born and orphaned in 1903, a man nick-named for his lifelong oral affliction. In the West Virginia coal mine wars, a boy hardens quick when he picks up a gun. Exile is his trophy, and he spends his adult years on the run. He changes his name and plays a mean mouth harp, and he keeps on running from his past, all the way to Chicago. But trouble will sniff even an old man down, and an outlaw will eventually run home. Here, Trenchmouth Taggart's story, like the best ballads, etches its mark deep upon the memory.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
In a bawdy narrative evocative of the classic yet quirky tales of John Irving and Larry McMurtry, Taylor's debut novel takes readers into the hillbilly world of the Appalachian Mountains, replete with guns, moonshine, and snake handlers. Avowedly the oldest living man in West Virginia, Trenchmouth Taggart lives in the untamed wilderness -- Deliverance country -- his lips voluntarily sewn shut with fishing line. But that won't stop him from the story he has to tell.

It began a century ago, when his unstable mother tossed him into a frigid river. Downstream, the indomitable Trenchmouth bobbed to the surface with an infected mouth that would haunt him all his years and a tenacious hold on life. The Widow Dorsett smuggles him into her mountain shack, and despite their abject poverty and the mockery of his schoolmates, Trenchmouth learns the tools of self-reliance and dignity. Among the notable skills he develops, he becomes a crack shot with a rifle, a talent he employs in a local war against the coal mining companies.

In the wake of a furious gun battle, Trenchmouth goes into hiding, making only an occasional foray into civilization to quench his thirst for liquor. But when he stumbles upon some new neighbors who share his love for music, Trenchmouth's life heads in a whole new direction.

(Fall 2008 Selection)

The Houston Chronicle
Taylor's prose is so fluid and seemingly effortless that The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart bridges the usually irreconcilable gap between popular fiction and literary fiction. It's that rare creature - a literary page-turner - and it will please both the casual reader and the college professor . . . The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is a stunning, fully realized, unique and ambitious book that proves there's still passion, fire and brilliance in the American novel.
—Eric Miles Williamson
Chuck Kinder
"I was hooked immediately by the narrative voice, which I would describe as utterly kickass, take-no-prisoners in tone. The combination of hyperbole & hilarity throughout is what I would call High Hillbilly in the purest form."
Houston Chronicle
"A stunning, fully realized, unique and ambitious book that proves there’s still passion, fire and brilliance in the American novel."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933202310
  • Publisher: West Virginia University Press
  • Publication date: 6/17/2008
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Glenn Taylor was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia. His first novel, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award. Taylor lives in Chicago with his wife and three sons.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue
On December 3rd, 2010, the old man sewed his mouth shut with saltwater-rated fishing line. The sores and the throbbing were back. It was his 108th birthday, and it was the day Time magazine sent a reporter to his home in Warm Hollow, West Virginia. This was on account of the old man's reputation, and on account of Pearl Thackery. Pearl Thackery was the oldest living West Virginian and had died the week prior, leaving the old man, a one time inventor, snake handler, cunnilinguist, sniper, woodsman, harmonica man, and newspaperman, as the oldest living Homo sapien in the state. He'd left a small, pinto bean-sized hole unsewn, so that he could ingest chicory coffee and spruce needle tea through a straw. So he could speak if he needed to. And so he could smoke his Chesterfields.When the Time magazine reporter sat down across the kitchen table from him, the old man broke his vow of silence and mastered, in minutes, smoking and speaking simultaneously. It was a speech difficult to discern, but it was talking nonetheless. The reporter pushed the record button his miniature, steel voice recorder. A red light the size of a tick lit up. The old man marveled at this invention. He stared at the little red circle until it went blurry there on the kitchen table. It entranced him. He spun a blown-glass ashtray with his plump-veined, purple-blotched hands. His skin was thin. A full white head of hair. His eyes and ears, though drooped and wrinkled, were still keen. He farted freely.The reported got down to business. "I'd like to ask you about your life, if I may," he said.The old man leaned back in his split wood chair, then forward again. "You want me to bend your ear?" he said. "I'll do it. But the bend I put on it won't never heal. You're liable to go deaf." He pronounced "deaf" like "deef." It was a lot of voice from a little hole. He said, "I feel like that big small fella the Jewish actor played. Hoffman. Small Big Man. You seen it?" He lit a cigarette and stuck it in the hole. Pulled white paper red. "Was a time I had but two talents," he said. "Back then it was speaking in tongues and pleasing women by way of their nether-regions."The reporter cleared his throat."I come up with the phrase, 'I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.' " This was a bald-faced lie. He said, "You may have heard along the way somewhere that I killed men." He considered the younger man, his hands and the way he held them on the table. His eyes. Then the old man bent his ear.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 17 of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2008

    A New American Classic

    I checked out The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart based on a review in the Chicago Tribune (the author is a Chicago-based English prof) and I couldn't have been more pleased. This is a great read in every regard--punchy story, quirky characters, a nice mix of fact and fiction weaving through American history. I highly recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great American Folklore. Two thumps up!

    I would have never picked up this book on my own. A friend of mine from Huntington, W.V. gave me as a gift.... and I'm so glad he did. This is a well written novel about an unlikely character that will quickly become someone you want to get to know much better. The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart is Americana, the story of a West Virginia who is or should be folklore. His life story is filled with turmoil, adventure, love and follows the rich history of turn of the century West Virginia. The line between this book being fictional and an actual biography of a real mans life is blurry. If you like a little historical fiction, a great story then you will enjoy this book.

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  • Posted June 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is a fascinating ballad that provides the audience a deep look into West Virginia's Appalachia across the twentieth century

    He is probably the oldest person in Appalachia rumored to be born back in 03 that is 1903; in the West Virginia section of the mountain range he is considered older than dirt. Over a century ago, his thirst for life and his moniker of Trenchmouth Taggart came from the same harrowing incident. His not so sane mom tossed him into an icy river. Taggart survived but suffered a nasty infection in his mouth. On his 108th birthday, he had his lips sewn tight with fishing line wire except for a straw opening for coffee, tea and moonshine, as his latest means of survival; this time from an outside reporter. He learned to survive and to insure he depended on only himself thanks mostly to his grit and that strong Mountain Widow Dorsett who saved his life after his mom tossed him to his watery grave; as she taught him to rely on himself.

    Although now a senior's senior citizen, he still gets aroused in fights against those blowing off mountain tops, but Taggart has gone aground ever since he set up target practice as a union sniper targeting the coal mining firms; suits and scabs were his favorites. He surfaces when he needs liquor or music. Although he cannot speak, he tells THE BALLAD OF TRENCHMOUTH TAGGART to a Time reporter.

    This is a fascinating ballad that provides the audience a deep look into West Virginia's Appalachia across the twentieth century where poverty has always led to the loss of childhood innocence at an extremely young age. Trenchmouth is an interesting character with his tale enhanced by those in his lives starting briefly with his fire and brimstone mom drowning him; to the Widow teaching him to be independent and strong; to the union leaders hiring him to shoot the enemy, etc. Fans will enjoy his life on the outside as his recreation is moonshine and music.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Posted January 26, 2009

    A Ballad Without a Great Chorus

    Trenchmouth Taggart will pull you in as well as any 'great' book. The style and character descriptions draw you into a world that is vivid and colorful. The author puts together brilliant ideas about a young boy, growing up in a dirty world....<BR/><BR/>But then it kind of falls apart from there. Told in three books, Trenchmouth goes from Brilliance in Book 1, to Kind of Interesting in Book 2, to absolute Bore in Book 3.<BR/><BR/>Worth reading? YES. Memorable? Kind of.

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  • Posted November 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Needs More

    I was really looking forward to reading this book. I immediatly brought it home and read it. It started great and just went... well, nowhere and everywhere. I thought that the author could have expanded more on the characaters and maybe that would help the plot. I doubt i really read anymore books by this author....

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Here is one book worth reading

    This novel is the tale of a West Virginian named Trenchmouth Taggert. He was born in 1903 to a rambling musician of a father and a religiously Schizophrenic mother who tried to baptize him, when he was all of two months old, in a frozen, coal-sludge choked creek and this baptism caused a mouth infection that lead to his name. But a name is too simple a thing to describe anyone, especially this memorable character. Through this tale, this man meets, among others: Hank Williams, Sr., Chuck Berry and John F. Kennedy. He makes a living by being a: Pentecostal snake-handler, woman ¿pleaser,¿ Coal Strike sniper, Hermit, Woodsman, professional musician, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and a vigilante but those things are not his life.<BR/> Had Forest Gump been reared by Will Rogers, he may have resembled Trenchmouth Taggert. The wisdom that originates from seeing what is real, not necessarily what is being witnessed, the courage to act upon what is before him and the moral integrity to ¿do the right thing¿ is the best description this Student can offer of this fresh, shocking, engaging character. The story his life tells is one of a proud People who have been orphaned by their country and must therefore depend upon themselves. They are connected to the land in ways only those who realize the depth of that dependence can understand. Those who act to ruin the land, abuse its people or make demands to which they have no right, must prepare to meet Trenchmouth Taggert. His life spans 108 years and ends as it was lived, at a place and occasion of his choosing. Trenchmouth does not die, he chooses to ¿travel on.¿<BR/> The author, M. Glenn Taylor, proves himself to be a worthy recipient of his mountain tale-telling heritage. He ¿knows¿ the history of West Virginia as it is his own history, as is true for Trenchmouth. Mr. Taylor speaks of good people in a bad situation, evil people using others to further their own egos, the reality that such people can be one in the same and justice is not only blind but often fickle. It is just as true that no one gets to dictate how others choose to live their lives. They can only affect the external environment of life - not what matters.<BR/> This novel is peopled with unforgettable characters, and characters that are ethereal (they exist, have influence but are not clearly defined). This is a tale worth hearing. Like many Mountain folk, Trenchmouth lives a life unconnected from other people, yet people feel deeply connected to him. He moves down the path he has chosen, the reader connects with each stage of this trek while Trenchmouth merely passes through. He cares, but remains detached from those around him. He does so as if his life depended upon it.<BR/> This story is a description of modern life. There is disappointment, hardships and greed at every turn, it seems. One only wishes for a place of retreat, where one can find rest and not ¿have to live life looking over their shoulders, sniffing the air like dogs.¿ The success this book will have, and it will be successful, will be due to good writing and the connection the readers have with Trenchmouth. A connection forged in the age of a crashing stock market, useless wars and a Government that seems to have forgotten its people. In this work, Trenchmouth is known by many names, one that would be most fitting is ¿Everyman (or woman).¿ As he seems to speak our language.

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  • Posted November 7, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Great read!

    All I can say is that I had a lot of fun reading this. I did not grow up in the mountains, but it felt like I was reading about stories I heard from relatives in the South. <BR/><BR/>Trenchmouth is a great character. I think I will find myself thinking about him from time to time.

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  • Posted November 6, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Waiting for more....

    Trenchmouth Taggert is a quick read. Unfortunately, that is primarily due to a lack of depth for characters and plot elements. There was a potential for this book to be far more interesting by giving more dimension to a few more characters and providing more context to some of the historical elements. I like the book ok, but it left me wanting more

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Interesting New Author

    Great read! The characters were well developed and definitely colorful. A well done combination of history and earthy, realistic action that holds the readers interest. Hope he has another book in the works! Buy it, you'll truly enjoy this wild moutain man character.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    A Tale of an Adventurous Life

    You will find it hard to put this lively tale of this West Virginia outlaw/hero(?). I was mesmerized by the adventures this boy-to-man-to-elder character experienced. Take time to experience a real element through this fictional story of West Virginia instead of what is stereo-typically thought of its people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    The Twists and Turns of Trenchmouth

    Taylor's writing style of short, clipped sentences add even more punch to the main character of Trenchmouth - who is a whirlwind of a character to be sure. This book is great on a number of levels and was a thrill ride from start to finish. The BOTT is a vivid story about a man from a section of the country that often falls prey to parody and misunderstanding. Taylor succeeds in not only dispelling many of these myths, but to weave a riveting story of a renaissance-mountain man on the run. Please do yourself a favor and buy this book.

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    Posted January 12, 2009

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