We all have to admit that we can guilty of buying books for their covers, I know I am. My latest read Twilight by William Gay was one, though bizarrely when I used to work next door to the TLS (it was lethal they gave us free books weekly, in fact I blame this particular period as being the route of my never ending TBR piles) a review copy with the hardback cover crossed my path and I thought it looked cheap, dreary and generally dreadful and never thought I would read it. The lesson it seems to have taught me, though isn’t actually the rule, is never judge a hardback by a bad cover and always judge a paperback by a good cover. Doesn’t that equate to just buy any book you can get your hands on though?
Twilight is a dark and twisted tale set in America’s Deep South. It starts with a brother and sister, Kenneth and Corrie Tyler, digging up the grave of their father. Why on earth would they be doing such a thing? They are suspicious, though you are never quite sure why, that his burial wasn’t as it should have been and when they find they are right (I will cut out the details for the faint of heart) and when they open more graves they realise that local undertaker Fenton Breece is up to no good and so they feel that they should bring him to justice. When Kenneth steals Fenton’s briefcase and finds some very disturbing and very incriminating photos of the undertaker and the dead they have all they need for a case of blackmail, only when Fenton hires the towns local convicted murderer to take back the evidence and get rid of the siblings things take a very nasty turn and Kenneth and Corrie are on the run through the wastelands.
I thought this book was marvellous and though it is incredibly heavy on plot at no point does the author let this take the attention or detail away from the prose or from the characters like many novels do. The book is essentially about evil people and the darkness within us all and with a character like Fenton Breece I didn’t think you could get much darker or disturbed and then you are introduced to an even more dangerous psychopath in the form of Granville Sutter a character that is incredibly vivid and I wont forget in a hurry, he is the type to give you nightmares. Yet both of these dark and dangerous characters are very different.
I also thought the landscapes created by William Gay were just wonderful, I have never been to the Deep South but as the book takes chase through defunct mines, ghost towns and abandoned mansions I felt I was actually there and being hunted and only able to rely on the strange inhabitants of those parts. It took me on a journey that truly captivated me and also had me on the edge of seat, a brilliant, brilliant novel.
Looking at some reviews and on a certain encyclopaedic site I was interested to learn of a new genre of fiction I have never heard of and which apparently this is a very good example of. Has anyone else heard of the term ‘Southern Gothic’ and where can I get my hands on more of this sort of stuff. If its like this and also like some of Cormac McCarthy’s work which interestingly William Gay has been criticised for, and I could see shades of No Country for Old Men in this (only because of the psycho in the Deep South part), then I really need to read more of this genre. It could be something to look into in the New Year after the sensation season is through. What Southern Gothic could you recommend? Have you read any William Gay and if so was it this good?