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A Hanging at Cinder Bottom
     

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom

by Glenn Taylor
 

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Stylish historical fiction in the tradition of True Grit and Carter Beats the Devil, A Hanging at Cinder Bottom is an epic novel of exile and retribution, a heist tale and a love story both.
The year is 1910. Halley’s Comet has just signaled the end of the world, and Jack Johnson has knocked out the “Great White Hope,” Jim Jeffries. Keystone,

Overview

Stylish historical fiction in the tradition of True Grit and Carter Beats the Devil, A Hanging at Cinder Bottom is an epic novel of exile and retribution, a heist tale and a love story both.
The year is 1910. Halley’s Comet has just signaled the end of the world, and Jack Johnson has knocked out the “Great White Hope,” Jim Jeffries. Keystone, West Virginia, is the region’s biggest boomtown, and on a rainy Sunday morning in August, its townspeople are gathered in a red-light district known as Cinder Bottom to witness the first public hanging in over a decade. Abe Baach and Goldie Toothman are at the gallows, awaiting their execution. He’s Keystone’s most famous poker player; she’s the madam of its most infamous brothel. Abe split town seven years prior under suspicion of armed robbery and murder, and has been playing cards up and down the coast, hustling under a variety of pseudonyms, ever since. But when he returns to Keystone to reunite with Goldie and to set the past right, he finds a brother dead and his father’s saloon in shambles—and suspects the same men might be responsible for both. Only then, in facing his family’s past, does the real swindle begin.
Glenn Taylor, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, has a unique voice that breathes life into history and a prose style that snaps with lyricism and comedy.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Allison Glock
Much of the novel is devoted to one long con, and this has its pleasures—a sort of Appalachian Ocean's Eleven—but the book's toothy joy is not to be found in its rigorous plot or even in the satisfying if foreseeable comeuppance of characters loathsome and obtuse. What makes A Hanging at Cinder Bottom a bone-through, can't-quit-you craving is Taylor's preternatural gift for language. In particular, the idiosyncratic cadence of West Virginia's spoken rhythms, which he apprehends as well as his own gait and offers up as a sort of music on every page…Taylor has a poet's eye, and though he trains it on somber themes—how progress eats our young, how the past cannot be outrun, how none of us, poor or rich, are in a position to do much but trudge through "man's thin attempt at living"—he believes in the end that, damaged or not, we harbor the capacity to take the muck of our mistakes and our milieu and make "beautiful things." Just as he has done.
Publishers Weekly
04/13/2015
National Book Critics Circle Award–finalist Taylor (The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart) has written a sprawling, lively serio-comic mountaineer novel set in his native West Virginia. The yarn opens in the summer of 1910, when 30-year-old card shark Abe Baach and his girlfriend, Goldie Toothman, are condemned to hang for the murder of Henry Trent, the mayor of Keystone. The story then backtracks seven years earlier, when Abe works at his father’s saloon whenever he isn’t sharpening his poker-playing skills and earning the sobriquet The Keystone Kid. Goldie lives at the brothel in Cinder Bottom, the coal town’s Tenderloin district,while she works dealing cards. The violent, corrupt Trent, along with his diminutive henchman, police chief Rutherford, extorts protection money from the town merchants. After things turn too hot, Abe gets out of Keystone and heads for Baltimore. But before long, an urgent telegram brings Abe rushing back to Keystone. There, Abe cooks up a scheme to even the score with Trent and Rutherford, revving up the story’s madcap energy and adding in quirky plot twists. The backwoods humor is somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell, which includes flatulence jokes and over-the-top bedlam as Taylor closes out his rollicking yarn with poetic justice. Agent: Terra Chalberg, Chalberg & Sussman Agency.(July)
Stewart O'Nan
“It's not enough to say Glenn Taylor is a brilliant writer. He's that rarity nowadays, a great storyteller. 'It was the day on which a game of stud poker commenced in Keystone that would last thirteen years.' I'm not lying when I say the rest of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom is just as irresistible. You'll never have a better time at a hanging.”
New York Times Book Review
“Much of [A Hanging at Cinder Bottom] is devoted to one long con, and this has its pleasures—a sort of Appalachian 'Ocean's Eleven'—but...what makes [Cinder Bottom] a bone-through, can't-quit-you craving is Taylor's preternatural gift for language.”
Susan Straight
“Glenn Taylor’s new novel defies classification or clichés. It’s like being dropped into a world, and having that world continue around you in its maelstrom and hilarity while you are stunned.It will clean your clock, fix your wagon, and knock you out.”
Bethanne Patrick
“Once again, Taylor takes us to a place and time that could easily be overlooked and forgotten, transforming the terrain and its locals into avatars for all humanity—yet he does so without losing their particular, essential qualities.The vivacity of his writing is rivaled only by the vibrancy of the story.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Public hangings, outlaws, and brothels figure into Taylor's lyrical, funny story.”
Los Angeles Times
“As complex (and frail) as . . . an Elmore Leonard novel. . . This ingeniously structured novel is a lot of fun — if you like card tricks and whiskey and the story of people with nothing who are trying to pull off a big one.”
Kirkus Reviews
2015-04-16
Taylor (The Marrowbone Marble Company, 2010, etc.) draws a morality tale from Appalachian coal country, "a place cinched by the hills…[that] watched over man's thin attempt at living." Abe Baach grew up in Keystone, West Virginia, Henry Trent's town. In 1867, Trent trekked to Keystone, dynamited railroad beds for a sawmill, and opened a coal seam. Abe's father, Al, a German-Jewish cobbler, came along later, staying because the "people of West Virginia laughed easy and looked at you straight when they spoke." Trent set Al up in a saloon, and Al married a local girl, while Trent and his amoral police chief, Rutherford Rutherford, "short and ugly and capable of violence," ran Keystone. Then Trent built the fancy Alhambra Hotel. There, at a giant table called Oak Slab, "a game of stud poker commenced...that would last 13 years." Dipping into the grit and grime of a "red-light boomtown," Taylor's narrative shifts from 1910 to 1877 to 1897 to 1903, touching on racism, anti-Semitism, Halley's Comet, and the Great White Hope championship fight. Card-wizard Abe shills poker for Trent, sickens of the scheme, fumbles his relationship with childhood love Goldie Toothman, and flees town as an accused murderer. While East Coast grifting among folk like Swollen Man, Dropsy Phil, and Bushel-Heap Lou, "Abe had learned in his years gone to tamp down those reckless habits." In Keystone, Abe's brother, Jake, "went prohibitionist, religified" and was murdered by Trent's gang. Abe returns home for revenge through a long con, The Sting-style. Taylor has a gift for language—"hope was a notion to think about quitting," a doctor tells dying Jake's family—but his conclusion is more cinematic than literary. Like Portis' True Grit, an American fable told with literary nuance.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781941040096
Publisher:
Tin House Books
Publication date:
07/13/2015
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
334,824
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Glenn Taylor is the author of the novels The Marrowbone Marble Company and The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He was born and raised in Huntington, West Virginia, and he now lives with his wife and three sons in Morgantown, where he teaches at West Virginia University.

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