Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories

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Overview

A ferocious debut that puts Frank Bill’s southern Indiana on the literary map next to Cormac McCarthy’s eastern Tennessee and Daniel Woodrell’s Missouri Ozarks

Crimes in Southern Indiana is the most blistering, vivid, flat-out fearless debut to plow into American literature in recent years. Frank Bill delivers what is both a wake-up call and a gut punch. Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket ...

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Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories

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Overview

A ferocious debut that puts Frank Bill’s southern Indiana on the literary map next to Cormac McCarthy’s eastern Tennessee and Daniel Woodrell’s Missouri Ozarks

Crimes in Southern Indiana is the most blistering, vivid, flat-out fearless debut to plow into American literature in recent years. Frank Bill delivers what is both a wake-up call and a gut punch. Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket fences have given way to meth labs, backwoods gunrunners, and bare-knuckle brawling.

Bill’s people are pressed to the brink—and beyond. There is Scoot McCutchen, whose beloved wife falls terminally ill, leaving him with nothing to live for—which doesn’t quite explain why he brutally murders her and her doctor and flees, or why, after years of running, he decides to turn himself in. In the title story, a man who has devolved from breeding hounds for hunting to training them for dog-fighting crosses paths with a Salvadoran gangbanger tasked with taking over the rural drug trade, but who mostly wants to grow old in peace. As Crimes in Sourthern Indiana unfolds, we witness the unspeakable, yet are compelled to find sympathy for the depraved.

Bill’s southern Indiana is haunted with the deep, authentic sense of place that recalls the best of Southern fiction, but the interconnected stories bristle with the urban energy of a Chuck Palahniuk or a latter-day Nelson Algren and rush with the slam-bang plotting of pulp-noir crime writing à la Jim Thompson. Bill’s prose is gritty yet literary, shocking, and impossible to put down. A dark evocation of the survivalist spirit of the working class, this is a brilliant debut by an important new voice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bill's resolutely unsentimental debut collection lays bare working-class strife, exposing atrocities that are at once violently harrowing and desperately human. Pitchfork and Darnel Crase, the two brothers in "Hill Clan Cross," exact cruel revenge on their young kinfolk who've been busy skimming their drugs to sell on the side. In "These Old Bones," the boys' mother murders their father once she discovers he'd pimped out their granddaughter, Audry. Elsewhere, in "Officer Down (Tweakers)," Moon, a police officer whose wife leaves him, kills his estranged best friend who'd become involved in the meth business; in a companion story, menace waits for Ina, his cheating wife. The title story features more downtrodden, reckless men who bet on dogfights with embittered Afghanistan war veterans, then lose and commit even more desperate acts. Readers who enjoy coal-black rural noir are in for a sadistic treat: flowing like awful mud and written in pulpy style, these stories paint a grisly portrait of the author's homeland. You might want to have your brass knuckles handy when reading. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“Bill's ever violent and never dull stories [are] a blend of Midwest Gothic and country pulp . . . [They’re] over the top, but in a good way, in the way that Quentin Tarantino's first film, Reservoir Dogs, was over the top. Bill never cheats on the smells and sounds of carnage. He doesn't spare the kids and the dogs. But he mixes in a dash of dark humor ("The Accident" being the best example), an occasional nod to love and sentiment ("The Penance of Scoot McCutchen"), and he's adept at holding back, offering reward with a fine twist at story's end . . . [T]his book delivers.” —The Seattle Times

“The hard- scrabble realism of these 17 stories will bring to mind the Ozark writer Daniel Woodrell and shades of Cormac McCarthy and Dorothy Allison—offering a view of American lives and mores that may as well be from a different planet . . . Rural idyll this is not—but it is as riveting as anything you may read in the near term.” —The Daily Beast (Best Debuts of the Fall list)

“Flowing like awful mud and written in pulpy style, these stories paint a grisly portrait of the author’s homeland. You might want to have your brass knuckles handy when reading.”  —Publishers Weekly

“This gritty, violent debut collection begins rather like pulp genre fiction then deepens into something much more significant and powerful. Set in a dilapidated, seedy, nightmare version of southern Indiana, complete with meth labs, dog-fighting rings, and all manner of substance abuse, the stories are connected by recurring characters. The collection opens with vignettes focused mainly on carnage. But as readers go deeper, the stories lengthen, with Bill turning his attention to psychology and character development and bringing the community to life in fascinating ways … Bill’s characters live in a fractured world where there are no good jobs, not much respect for life, and not much hope. It’s a bleak, hard-boiled vision of America.” —Library Journal

“Good Lord, where in the hell did this guy come from? Blasts off like a frigging rocket ship and hits as hard as an ax handle to the side of the head after you’ve eaten a live rattlesnake for breakfast. One of the wildest damn rides you’re ever going to take inside a book.” —Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff

“Frank Bill’s characters all seem to be hurtling at ninety miles an hour down dead end streets, and his recounting of their passage is vivid and unforgettable. Like Barry Hannah on amphetamines, but the voice is undeniably Bill’s own.”—William Gay, author of Provinces of Night

“What can I say about this book? This: planning a summer trip north from Mississippi, these stories caused me to reroute to avoid Southern Indiana. Mr. Bill knows his people well, and writes like they live—on the edge of the edge. Just plain unforgettable fiction.”
—Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

“When you’re composing your hardbitten pantheon—Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Patricia Highsmith, Big Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard—save room for Frank Bill, whose Crimes in Southern Indiana reminded me how thrilling and darkly vital crime fiction used to be and is again.”
—Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil’s Territory

“These stories form the ideal nexus between literary art and pulp fiction: beautifully crafted, compulsively readable, and as addictive as crystal meth.”
—Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God and The Wrecking Yard

“Take the bark of a .45, the growl of a rusted-out muffler, and the banshee howl of a methhead on a three-day bender, and you approximate the voice of Frank Bill, a startlingly talented writer whose stories rise from the same dark lyrical well as those of Daniel Woodrell and Dorothy Allison.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh

“How can I not love a writer whose work reminds me in a huge way of some of my favorite writers: Lansdale, Woodrell, Willeford, Thompson, and Faulkner? Crimes in Southern Indiana is a brutal, hilarious, honest, unforgettable book, and Frank Bill is the freshest new voice to emerge on the crime fiction scene in recent years.” —Jason Starr, author of The Pack
 
"Say you’re driving down a country road, midnight, a beer in your lap, and you corner into a two-car head-on collision that’s one of the most horrible things you’ve ever seen, so horrible that you’ve just gotta stop, and then, say, when you’ve gotten out and you’re poking around the body parts trying to figure out what’s what, you turn your head just right and catch the way the moonlight lays glittering over the twisted metal and bloodslick asphalt, and you’re struck breathless by the eerie beauty of it all.  That’s what Frank Bill’s writing is like. It’s that stark, that brutal, and just that beautiful."
—Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike

“Frank Bill does to crime fiction what a rabid pit bull does to his favorite chew toy. You’ll need a neck brace after whipping through these wild, wonderful, whacked-out stories.” —Derek Nikitas, author of Pyres

"Crimes in Southern Indiana brings to light a major American writer of fiction, the prose equivalent of a performance by Warren Oates or a song by Merle Haggard or a photograph by Walker Evans. Tempting though it is to compare him to other writers, the fact is that five years hence every good new fiction writer to come into view will be compared to Frank Bill." —Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest

“The first time I read a story by Frank Bill it was like watching a redneck opera in another language.  No idea what was going on, but I was dying to find out. I wanted more, more, more until I finally learned how to speak 'Frank Bill.' He is a completely original voice in the literary arena, and will take on any challengers with his bare hands. I'm continually in awe of the stories he tells and the insane way he tells them.” —Anthony Neil Smith, author of Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’

Library Journal
This gritty, violent debut collection begins rather like pulp genre fiction then deepens into something much more significant and powerful. Set in a dilapidated, seedy, nightmare version of southern Indiana, complete with meth labs, dog-fighting rings, and all manner of substance abuse, the stories are connected by recurring characters. The collection opens with vignettes focused mainly on carnage. But as readers go deeper, the stories lengthen, with Bill turning his attention to psychology and character development and bringing the community to life in fascinating ways. Many of the male protagonists are combat veterans, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and many of the characters—women as well as men—solve problems through lethal violence. Take Scoot McCutchen, who murders the wife he loves when she falls terminally ill. Bill's characters live in a fractured world where there are no good jobs, not much respect for life, and not much hope. It's a bleak, hard-boiled vision of America. VERDICT Recommended for fans of literary fiction but not for the faint of heart.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT
Kirkus Reviews

A dark, hard-boiled debut consisting of interconnected short stories.

No doubt about it, Bill can write. His sentences are terse and clipped: You'll feel as though some backwoods cracker has taken a break from cookin' meth or beatin' his wife to tell you these stories. It's a book without heroes, just a few reasonably decent people surrounded by others you'd want to scrape off the sole of your shoe. Redeeming qualities are rare in the characters, who have colorful names like Knee High, Pine Box and Pitchfork. Oh, and Dodo. Women are raped, brains are splattered and faces are sliced. A man gets his grandson whacked, bullet to the head, to teach that boy a lesson. Cross your kin, you wind up in Hill Clan Cross Cemetery, "where bad deals were made good and lessons were buried deep." A woman goads her husband to kill her father, who's always called her a whore. A guy skims cash from MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha, the most dangerous gang anywhere. A dicey idea at best. A woman leaves her husband, gets gang-raped, maybe gets even, maybe doesn't. Readers will be rapt or repelled by the fast pace and near-constant violence that makes James Lee Burke's books look like kiddy lit. The stories are well told, though, and will get the readers' adrenaline flowing, maybe the bile rising, too. Some characters appear in several of the stories, but the one constant thread is the setting. Ordinarily this might work well, but this collection would have benefited from having a central character the reader could root for. Most of the characters are simply bone-marrow bad, and their stories leave an acrid taste about the human condition.

Aficionados of crime writing likely will love the stories and their crackling excitement. Others, if they even finish the book, will at least appreciate the well-crafted prose.


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374532888
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 422,890
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frank Bill lives and writes in southern Indiana. Crimes in Southern Indiana is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 5, 2011

    The best of country noir

    I had the opportunity to read this in manuscript form. It's the kind of meth-fueled, backwoods nightmare I feel like I've been waiting my whole life for. Read it.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2011

    An astonishing debut

    Here's one reason to know about Frank Bill. With his breathtaking first collection, "Crimes in Southern Indiana", he will instantly, deservedly ascend onto a stage of stunning Big Names. Reviewers will have their reasons and they'll be damn good ones. Bill shares the unexpected vision of Pinckney Benedict and Thom Jones. The sly wisdom of James Crumley and James Lee Burke. The hard-fought masculinity of Jim Harrison and Hemingway. The doped-up worlds of Palahniuk and both Thompsons, Hunter and Jim. The heart-stopping originality of Dorothy Allison. The sense of place of Woodrell, Larry Brown, Flannery O'Connor, and Sherwood Anderson. The sudden, consuming violence of Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy. The deceptive lyricism of Ray Carver and Bonnie Jo Campbell.

    Or here's another. It's a near-certainty that "Crimes" will be on everyone's shortlist for awards come end of the year. Or how about the fact that every person with a subscription to Playboy or Esquire will be name-dropping him like a brick over the coming months?

    Honestly, none of that matters. You want to grab this book for the sheer pleasure of reading these stories. The rush of burred pages and nonstop action. The beauty of tales connected by laced ropes of blood - some spare as an empty jelly glass next to a bottle of white-label whiskey, others deep and so dark you'll be glad you've never lived anything like them, and all of them brutal, gunridden and bloodsoaked.

    Bill's stories offer a unique, fresh, ferocious look at a drug-fueled, explosive world of empty promises and dead ends. And while they have all the thrills and grip of great pulp fiction, they also have the lightning-strike clarity of more "literary" art, leaving us with the afterglow of a glimpse into our truly terrifying, modern heartland.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Blood feud poetry...

    Blood feud poetry. Desperate situations where beat-down people stand on the line between what they know is wrong and sheer survival in a hardscrabble emotionally jagged landscape. Those uncomfortable photos in the middle of the newspaper showing a man with sunken sleep-bruised eyes and a couple column inches detailing the unfathomable things he's done. Staring into the abysmal latrine of humanity, it is easy to sink to nihilism, to embrace the banality of evil, but in Crimes in Southern Indiana, Frank Bill refuses to take the easy road. People beyond forgiveness seek mere understanding. Desires criss-cross and hurtle together like jalopies down a one lane dirt road. Anyone can write brutality. Giving it a dark but honest human heart takes guts and a keen sense of people, and this novel speaks volumes of messy truth.
    Favorites. Vengeance-fueled rampages like "Old Testament Wisdom." The broken gears of human machines, like in "The Need." Not a bad story in the bunch. I'd read an early version of "Officer Down (Tweakers)" and it is leaner and meaner here. Even the meth-heads get their due, and aren't mere boogeymen. One of the best debuts I've read. The best may be "Cold Hard Love," only because it teases us with the subject Bill's next novel, Donnybrook. Which like this book, will be one not to miss.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    The twigs you hear cracking out in the woods are the sounds of vengeance come home to roost.

    [This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown.]

    When you think of places where crime lurks, locations where you should keep the car rolling through stop signs, where you never stop to ask for directions, a few names may pop into your head. Maybe you think of Detroit or East St. Louis, Baltimore or Miami. It's time to add Corydon, Indiana, to that list, as well as the entire southern part of the state.

    In Frank Bill's violent, gut-wrenching, and heartfelt collection of short stories, Crimes in Southern Indiana, there is nowhere safe to hide-the criminals are happy to walk right in the front door pointing a shotgun in your face, spitting tobacco on the floor. A granddaughter is sold as a sex slave. A war veteran tries to forget the killings he committed out in the field as well as the abuse he inflicted on his family at home. Dogfights turn into moments of self-preservation and sudden morality. Family turns on itself while the police provide inadequate protection. All of this unfolds with a raw, unflinching portrayal of meth heads, delinquents, and lost souls searching for a way out. The stories are interlinked and overlapping, as it has to be in any small town, the hero in one story meeting his demise in another, the lawmaker in one tale becoming the criminal in the next.

    Early on we get a strong sense of what life what must be like in Corydon and the surrounding communities. In "All the Awful" we witness the sale of Audry by her grandfather, ironically named Able, into slavery, her young flesh an easy commodity to move on the black market:

    "One of the man's hands gripped Audry's wrists above her head. Forced them to the ground. She bucked her pelvis up. Wanted him off of her. The other hand groped the rounded shapes beneath her soiled wifebeater. Her eyes clasped. Held tears. The man's tobacco-stained lips and bourbon breath dragged against her neck."

    Suffice it to say that Audry has a bit of spite and spirit left, unwilling to succumb to the fate that has been dealt to her. It's a quick lesson on family and the men that inhabit the town she lives in, something she'll surely never forget.

    The fact that meth is a part of the lifestyle in Crimes in Southern Indiana is no shock-rural communities fall victim to the widespread drug, cheap to sell but dangerous to manufacture, explosions riddling the countryside and across the southlands. Eager to show both sides of the coin in his depiction of drug use and prosecution, Frank Bill takes on the mindset of the addict in "The Need," painting a vivid picture of an addled mind:

    "Speeding into the gravel curve, Wayne lost control of the Ford Courier, stomped the gas instead of the brake. Gunned the engine and met the wilderness of elms head-on. His head split the windshield, creating warm beads down his forehead, while flashbacks of an edge separating flesh and a screaming female amped through his memory.

    Blood flaked off as Wayne balled his hands into fists, remembering the need he could no longer contain."

    [For the rest of this review go to The Nervous Breakdown.]

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2011

    Gritty Fun

    Okay, I am an older woman, and at first I thought to myself, "This is a guy's book," but within two pages I was hooked. These are great stories. Frank Bill is a true talent and wordsmith. All the stories and characters are rough around the edges just as they should be, and every single tale grabs you and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Read these in the safety of the city or suburbs!

    Not your typical book club pick,this book reads like a Greek Tragedy set in the second growth woods of down, but not quite out, Southern Indiana. Survival is the goal & the author delivers stories in which it's hard to decide who to cheer on. Vivid images & compelling characters kept me reading!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    Simply amazing

    If you like dark and gritty tales, then this book is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2012

    Very gritty & savagely written. The details of the characte

    Very gritty & savagely written. The details of the characters & the interaction between them all is exceptional. Every character in the book has some fatal flaw, whether obvious or not. I couldn't put this book down, read it in 3 days.

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    Posted May 8, 2012

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