Gods of Howl Mountain

Gods of Howl Mountain

by Taylor Brown

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In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood-a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.In the mill town at the foot of the mountains-a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing-Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline "Granny May" Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory's mother-the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows ... or protect her only grandson from the past.With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982525538
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: 05/29/2018
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 5.70(h) x (d)

About the Author

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of Western North Carolina. His fiction has appeared in more than twenty publications, including the Baltimore Review, North Carolina Literary Review, and storySouth. He is the recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction, and was a finalist in both the Machigonne Fiction Contest and the Doris Betts Fiction Prize.

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Gods of Howl Mountain: A Novel 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such colorful insightful descriptions, like poetry! Loved this book. Am a big fan of NASCAR and resident of NC where author lives. Appreciate this fine work!
Anonymous 10 months ago
Though I personally found some of the language a little crude, I enjoyed the authentic characters, and the historical and cultural references about the North Caorlina mountains. Having grown up in the foothills of NC, I can attest to the authenticity of the book, which is a good mix of suspense, history and romance. The book moves back and forth between different times, but they were pretty well-delineated. I don’t mean to sound sexist at all; but I normally prefer female writers. However, Taylor Brown holds his own! I will be looking into his other works soon.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars I only had to read a few pages and I found myself in the back hills of North Caroline, on Howl Mountain. Rory is living with his granny and the two of them make special trips to see his mother who is living in a special home because of an event that occurred that no one likes to talk about. That’s what it’s like here on the mountain. Everything is on a need-to-know basis. Rory would like to know all the details and he will know, when the time is right. Granny makes her own homemade tinctures, remedies and potions for whatever may ail you and the folks come from many of miles to ask for granny’s help with their ailments. Whiskey is the name of the game here up on the mountain and Rory is a runner for the drink. Since coming back from the war with his leg injury, Rory has been working for Eustace while trying to keep his dreams (or nightmares) at bay. Eustace lives with Rory and Granny since he also came back from the war. Eustace has a great setup here on the mountain with his concealed stills and his loyal crew. Some people want a piece of Eustace business and Eustace isn’t just handing it over. Meanwhile, Rory has been eyeing the preacher’s daughter, he just can’t get past her green eyes. The mountain contains many secrets and stories, some that cannot be told until the time is right. I love stories about the Appalachian Mountains region. I love how dark and mysterious these stories can get, how the past and present twist around each other as the story unfolds. This novel webbed and flowed as I read it, sometimes picking up in pace and excitement and other times, I sat with granny on the front porch, as she smoked her pipe, and waited for the spirits to arrive at night. Descriptive language filled me as I read, I heard the colored glass bottles clinking as they hung from the old tree out front and I saw them all gathered together at the church, their arms lifted, some speaking in tongues, as they danced amongst themselves, worshipping their God. Another great novel about a time and place in history featuring individuals living their own lives on a mountain with its own rules. I received a e-copy of this novel from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest opinion. Thank you for allowing me to read this novel. I also won a physical copy of this novel from a Goodreads Giveaways. I am thrilled to get a physical copy of this novel so I can reread it. Thank you Goodreads! (less)
Laeljeanne More than 1 year ago
Secrets are Held Closely in the Mountains Granny May Docherty lost her daughter Bonni to Dix Hill 30 years ago when nightriders killed her boyfriend, the mill owner’s son Conner, silencing her voice. Her grandson Rory lost his leg to Korea, limiting his employment opportunities on his return home, leaving him little choice but to become a whiskey runner for Eustace Uptree, his best friend’s uncle and Granny May’s lover. Brown takes readers through the rabbit hole away from Mad Men and the American dream of a white picket fence to the colorful and dangerous world of Appalachia, where reigned illegal whiskey and wannabe drivers for the newly founded NASCAR. A middle-aged wood witch and former prostitute, Granny May longs to know who hurt her girl, but fear of consequences prevents her from pursuing it with Rory. Brown’s subtle backstory of Bonni and Conner’s romance contrasts with the rawness and graphic depiction of mountain life in the 50s. Flooding of mountain valleys for “progress” disrupted Appalachian culture and forced a reluctant relationship with those living in towns and cities. Amy Greene’s “Long Man” shows the resistance of one woman against such flooding by the government. In Brown’s story, the event is long-reaching, since the main road literally heads straight into the man-made lake. As in Amy Greene’s debut novel “Bloodroot,” a body part is used as symbolism of a South yet alive with Pagan ways while tightly holding its secrets. Taylor Brown digs out niches in his historical fiction—last vestiges of whiskey runners and nascent NASCAR, river kings, the lawlessness at the end of the civil war—getting down to the nitty-gritty of hard-living, developing complex characters who maintain their integrity in impossible situations. He gets a bit too “real” sometimes; for instance, there’s a lot of spitting in this book, some of it from Granny May—so much spitting. In one scene, Eustace flicks his nephew in the nuts. Graphic details can overwhelm the reader, such as when Rory’s rival purposely hits a deer and Brown describes the specifics of the deer’s physical suffering. Having said that, the reader leaves the novel with a sense of having learned history not found in textbooks, such as exactly what someone who drives illegal booze through the mountains does to his car to outrun the revenuers. It’s a definite must-read.
RRatliff More than 1 year ago
What a ride! I have such mixed emotions about this book. I love that it is set right in the heart of the mountains where I grew up, just a few mountians over from Boone, North Carolina. My Great Great Granny, like Granny May, lived on The Mountain and didn't come down unless she had to. She didn't do much business with the outside world, most of it was for the same reasons as Granny May - she could help people. That's where the similarities end, my Granny was a devout Christian. Granny May says the only god she believes in is the god of the Mountain. Like Rory and Eustace, my Grandad ran Moonshine made by his gradfather through the mountains in his "hot car" in the fifties. So much of this book hit close to home for me. The first half of the book is very slow though. It seems more like a series of snapshots - lots of very descriptive scenes strung loosely together with a bit of plot. The writing is very gritty. Everything is described in the colors of blood and bruises and wounds, and the characters really rubbed me the wrong way for the first half of the book. They're kind of crass. I understand they are backwoods tough, no sugar-coating, no mincing words, but still... at 50% I was giving this book 3 stars. The story gets much better after the first half, and the last third is an action-packed thrill ride. From about 70% through and on I couldn't put it down. Some very unexpected twists and turns. It reminds me a lot of Matt Bondurant's Wettest County in the World. The descriptive writing finally serves its purpose in the last part of the book - you can almost feel the roar of the engines at the racetrack, almost smell the tang of fiery moonshine. The same descriptiveness that made the first half of the book drag is put to good use in the latter half effectively pulling the reader in. The last half is easily a 5 star read. For those concerned about content, there is at least one very descriptive sex scene and descriptive references to a handful of other incidents, and a lot of suggestive references and language. Just crudeness where I don't think it was warranted. Granny May makes no apologies to anyone, and she calls it like she sees it, whether you want to hear it or not. (In fact, Rory is often found covering his ears and escaping to his car to escape Granny May's tongue) Because this book hits so close to home, I can say I do think it is a fairly accurate historical perspective, and I really appreciated that. The characters are certainly realistic. And the plot itself, once it gets going, is well-crafted.
oldwarden More than 1 year ago
Out of the park home run! Wow! Just wow! Brown has penned a masterpiece this time. I enjoyed his last book, "River of Kings", but this one....wow! His ability to describe a scene; the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and even the "aura" is incredible. You cannot read this and not feel that you are there, in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1950's. The character development is strong and convincing. The moonshiners, the lawmen, the church members, the healers. The suspense, the violence, the coming of age romances. The mystical, magical character of Granny is especially strong. And the plot is so believable and flows along at such a rapid rate that you cannot put the book aside, but find that you have to take breaks, otherwise you may find yourself actually swept away in the maelstrom! Super highly recommend this book!
DorieAnn More than 1 year ago
I had read “The Fallen Land” by Taylor Brown and absolutely loved it. I don’t know why I had so many problems liking this book. I did put it aside for a while and then come back to it and finish it and I’m glad that I did as the ending was a good, if very violent one. Rory Docherty returns from the war back to Howl Mountain in North Carolina after being immersed in violent battles and losing a foot to the war. In my mind I was a little confused as to why he would come back there when there was no work, no way of making money except to sell moonshine whiskey or work in the “heat and lint and machine-gun rattle of the mills”. However as I read the story more I understood that he came back for his mother and his Granny May who raised him. His mother, Bonni, had been in an asylum since she had been in a horrible encounter where her boyfriend/lover was killed in front of her and she did not speak a word after that. This isn’t an easy book to read. It is quite dismal and depressing with the only bright points coming from some beautiful descriptions of the mountains and some humor from some of the things that Granny May said.The novel also flashes back to the war which was as depressing as the present story. Some of the writing was just gorgeous, in speaking about the lone chestnut tree standing on top of Howl Mountain “The others of its kind, chestnuts, had once covered these mountains, the bark of their trunks deeply furrowed, age twisted like the strands of giant steel cables. Their leaves sawtoothed, golden this time of year, when the falling nuts fattened the beasts of the land, sweetening their meat . . . .Some exotic fungus had slipped in through wounds in their bark, the work of antlers or claws or penknives, victims of death black cankers that starved and toppled them.” I love strongly character driven novels and I had trouble connecting with anyone on this mountain. I also love descriptive prose but at times in this book it just seemed like too much and I found myself flipping past some pages to get back to the plot. If I could I would rate this book 4* for the writing alone but it was a 3* read for me and that is my honest review. I don’t think I would recommend this book to friends or book clubs, etc. I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley, thank you.
Aqswr More than 1 year ago
Moody, dark and a bit witchy, GODS OF HOWL MOUNTAIN carries us to eastern North Carolina right after the Korean War when moonshine and big American cars set the scene. Of course, folk medicine and internecine battles between folks running moonshine, their competitors, and the law really define this tale that the author delivers in a pitch perfect style. The characters are so alive they seem to reach out from the pages. And these characters have a lot going on, only half of which they are aware of; the other half is a work in progress. That work is the topic of the novel as the story moves forward. It’s a good tale and well worth reading. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
UpAllNightBB More than 1 year ago
Taylor Brown’s Gods of Howl Mountain was a one of a kind literary trip through the secret life of moonshiners living in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1950’s. Rory Docherty, returned from the war and one leg short, is settling in back at home, living with his grandmother, Granny May, who raised him after his mother was witness to a horrific crime that left her mute and living in a home for the mentally ill. As Rory gets readjusted to his bootlegging life, he encounters challenges unique to the lifestyle. He has to dodge the feds, battles other local whiskey-runners and falls for, against his Granny’s warnings, a God-fearing girl. While juggling all things life in the moonshiner’s mountains, Rory continues to investigate the mystery of who put his mother in a mental hospital. Since she won’t speak, no one knows for sure who caused her unspoken terror, and he is determined to find revenge, one way or another. Unfortunately, the dangers of the mountains and its secrets will do all it can to stand in the way of the truth. While this was not a fast-paced read, there was plenty going on to hold my interest, from stock car races to federal car chases. From brothels and moonshine deliveries to Pentecostal potlucks and potions, there is something to keep you reading at every turn. The writing was intense, descriptive and revealing, at times so visual it was difficult to push through. I felt like I could see, feel and smell the mountains of North Carolina. The content was something I have not read before, and it was believable and uniquely fascinating. I found myself completely pulled into the story and the atmosphere. I could picture Granny May, running out to the porch of their country cabin, barefoot, hair wild and swinging a rifle around. This is not a book I would normally think to pick up since it’s not a topic I have read about before, but I would recommend this read, even if it’s a subject outside your typical wheelhouse. What a rare opportunity to experience the true backwoods of North Carolina from a perspective that most would never be exposed to. A fascinating four star for this unique story. **Review by Amy, Late Night Reviewer for Up All Night with Books**
CLynnT More than 1 year ago
Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty and her grandson Rory live in a shack high up in the North Carolina mountains. The vivid descriptions by Taylor Brown of the home, the people, and their habits carry you into the world and it is not a pretty picture. This isn’t a feel-good story but it could easily be a true story. The author delves into the lifestyle of the Appalachian mountain people that has persisted for years and to this day still does. Rory is a Korean vet who returned from the war with one less leg. He’s a runner for the moonshiners; his love for his souped-up car Maybelline and his ability to handle her on the rough mountain roads is impressive. He lives with his grandmother Granny May who is one tough little gal, and a medicine doctor of sorts. Rory‘s mother is in a mental institution and hasn’t spoken for years, the result of a horrendous attack when she was a young teen. It continues to burn a hole and Rory and Granny May’s heart to solve who did this to their loved one and to serve retribution as needed. This is a great story, a great environment and no bright sky in the future but as stated earlier, it could easily be true and it could easily happen today. I enjoy reading these kinds of plots; lifestyles of others that we’re oblivious to. I think there’s so much we take for granted in our daily lives. The author does such a fantastic job of putting you in the middle of Granny’s shack and living Granny’s life; the food, the lack of facilities, the body odors and the lack of respect for outsiders is so vivid. But also crystal clear is the love, dedication and deep respect for their home and family. This is a thoroughly engrossing and moving read. (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for making it available.)
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I am very pleased - thank you Netgalley - to be exposed to this fine southern writer. He is one I will add to my followed list. Gods of Howl Mountain is a peek into the North Carolina mountains in 1952. We have lovely girls and hot cars and dirt roads galore and it all makes for a fast paced tale that you hate to see end. Running moonshine was the shadowed beginning of NASCAR racing, and we also have a mention of Junior. The Junior. Johnson. But the hero of this tale is Rory Docherty, a Marine Vet who lost his clutching leg just below the knee in Korea. Home again, he and best friend Eli work daily on their pre-war Ford coupe sitting over a truck frame and suspension, with a powerful ambulance six cylinder under the hood. They are also fashioning a maple prosthetic leg and foot with an imbedded pistol in the calf, and Rory wastes a lot of gas learning how to use it confidently. Weekly he runs across the state to Raleigh to visit his mom. Eli is the nephew of Eustace, who makes the 'shine that the boys run to town and country customers. Maybelline, their Ford, is named for Granny May, the grandmother who raised Rory. We have flashbacks to the beginning of WWI, when Maybelline and her lover marry, and he ships off to Europe, and back home in a box. May is 15 or 16, the new mother of a now fatherless Bonni, and no family of her own to depend on. She falls into the only asset she can offer at the local bordillo, where she can feed herself and her child despite the bad times. We also have flashbacks into the early 1930's when the valley was first flooded to accommodate a power producing dam, and the severe changes this made in this mountain community. We see life then through the schoolgirl eyes of Rory's mom, Bonni and her lover Connor. Connor is murdered by three unknown hooded characters, and Bonni is so damaged mentally she has not spoken since, and was committed to the insane asylum in Raleigh. May takes on their baby Rory when the time comes, and places all her assets way up onto the mountainside, rejecting civilization altogether and raising Rory on her skill with herbs and potions learned from another old mountain granny. Granny May , 54 years old, smokes a corncob pipe and rocks on her porch of an evening, but the only time she smokes tobacco is after sex. She grows many things in the privacy of the mountain. Rory is fixated on solving the mystery of who killed his father and so harmed the mother he loves. The bad guys are the rival Muldoon Family, who also make and run moonshine on the mountain. The girl who may prove to be the love of Rory's life is Christine Adderholt, daughter of the snake yielding preacher of the Gospel at the old service station at End-of-the-Road, the last bits of the old town before the road runs straight into the dammed lake. Christine's father's brother is the local sheriff and thus another strike against the couple. As you can see, this is a story jam-packed with characters you will enjoy and cheer on in their good times, feel sorrow for in the bad. There are plenty of both, to keep you guessing. I want more of Taylor Brown. I received a free electronic copy of this fascinating historical novel from Netgalley, Taylor Brown, and St. Martin's Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
TheGrumpyBookReviewer More than 1 year ago
It's the fall of 1952, and Rory Docherty is back from the war in Korea. He lost one leg below the knee, but at least he is alive. Gods of Howl Mountain are alive and sinister in this new book by award-winning author, Taylor Brown. Alive, that is, as angry yet fearful, poverty-stricken, gun-toting, secretive, and superstitious bootleggers. There is safety in the remote sections of Appalachia, and there is danger, especially from competing bootleggers. Back home in the mountains of North Carolina, Rory returns to moonshining -- and to finding out who destroyed his mother. Oh, she is still alive, but she hasn't spoken since being raped so many years ago. The rape that produced Rory and sent his mother to a mental institution, left him to be raised by his grandmother, the herbal healer Maybelline (Granny May). At times Brown's prose is almost poetic in its description of the beauty that is Appalachia and North Carolina, as well as the danger found in some remote mountain areas. Gods of Howl Mountain will take you along on the struggle between good and evil, between justice and revenge, as Rory's life is threatened, and Granny May finally realizes who hurt her family so many years ago. This powerfully evocative novel will be in stores March 20, 2018. What Made This Reviewer Grumpy? Misspelling the contraction of "would have" and "could have" as "would of" and "could of", rather than the correct "would've" and "could've".
Rosemary-Standeven More than 1 year ago
I love Baroque and Rococo churches, but after visiting more than two in a day, my brain turns to mush with the excess of OTT architecture and decoration. This book is Baroque with an added Rococo make-over. Every phrase is embellished, with extra twisting curves on the embellishments. Two examples: “The trees cascaded skeleton like down from the mountaintops, pooling rust-crowned in the valleys, the leaves withering on the limb-ends like burning matchsticks.” and “Granny locked her jaws against a yawn, the cold sucked whistling through her teeth. Slowly she stood, her joints rusty and night-seized, popping and smarting as she rose. Her hips ground in their sockets like mustard seeds in a mortar bowl. Her thighbones were a pair of heavy pestles. Her back an old king post, worm-eaten and warping under the raftered weight of her collarbones”. The author is clearly gifted, and the imagery is excellent – there is just too much of a good thing, and it gets in the way of telling the story. My brain just cannot cope with so many different images at once, and I lose track of the story and characters. As a result, the book took me much longer to read than it should have. The surface story is about the illegal whiskey-running in the hills. It is an age-old industry, originally born out of poverty as the only way to make a living wage, but now it is a major business, and everyone wants a bigger cut: Eustace, the current big man in the hills; the Muldoons, a family of town ruffians; and the local sheriff. Meanwhile, the Revenue man, Kingman, wants to shut it all down. The main character, the battle-damaged one-legged Rory, works for Eustace. He lives with his grandmother, the redoubtable Granny May, and falls in love with the daughter of a snake-wrangling, evangelical preacher. His mute mother, Bonni, is in a mental hospital following a massive trauma that may have led to his conception. Neither Rory nor Granny May knows what really happened to Bonni and why, and this mystery is unpicked bit by bit throughout the book, with an unexpected surprise ending. There is a lot going on in this book to keep your interest. There is the excellent Granny May, with her backstory and herbal medications; the love story between Rory and Christine; the Bonni mystery, more than enough about suped-up cars (if that is where your interests lie) and the bootlegging. The writing, the plotting and characters are all very good – but it just did not grab me the way it should have. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
MusicInPrint More than 1 year ago
Loved the story of a wounded back woodsman coming back to run moonshine. Characters just did not move me. Seems like the past of this family was more heartfelt than the events that were unfolding in the present. "A copy of this book was provided by St Martin's Press via NetGalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
This story involves whisky-running, folk healers, sex, guns and cars... set into the landscape of the mountainous high country of North Carolina. It's 1950, and Rory Docherty has returned from the war with a wooden leg. He lives in a cabin with his Granny May, who is my favorite character in the book. She used to work in a whorehouse, makes a living selling herbal remedies, smokes a corncob pipe (of likely "medicinal" substance) and is skilled with handling a shotgun. One minute she's smoking a pipe rocking in a chair on her porch, and the next she could be rocking against the headboard of her bed. There's a mystery to be unravelled involving Rory's mother, who cannot speak and lives in a mental facility. There is also friction and mistrust between those that live in the mountains versus the valley. This is a unique book written in such a way as to be savored. It's not a free-flowing style that rolls easily over the tongue and through your brain. It's very descriptive with minute details and almost poetic. I found myself having to re-read passages to digest things fully, but sometimes grew impatient and skimmed past things to cut to the chase. The more this kind of story speaks to you, the more patient you will be to hang onto every word. I was only mildly interested in the premise of this story, so I grew impatient with the writing style. Thank you to St. Martin's Press who provided this advance reader copy via NetGalley.