Set in rural New England in the late 1920â€™s, Blood Harvest is a chilling book that deals with racism in the heyday of the Klu Klux Klan, or the â€œDumb Clucksâ€ as the authorâ€™s grandmother refers to them.
The novel was inspired by the stories Grandma told Randall of her marriage to a non-white European and the impact that had on her life.Â Like Mary Elizabeth MacKay, one of the central characters in Blood Harvest, Grandma could never return to her home town after marrying a man from Greece.
In the story, Mary Elizabeth marries Nick DeCosta â€“ â€œthat wop grocerâ€ â€“ after saving him from being lynched just for courting her, and they skedaddle to the next county. Nick has a successful moonshine business that has a negative impact on the MacKayâ€™s moonshine business, so that is another reason for the MacKay matriarch to wish he would just disappear.
The book is presented in chapters that alternate points of view, with some of them being first person and a few being third person. For the most part, this works, and the transitions from chapter to chapter are seamless. However, I did find it disconcerting when I read the first chapter from the POV of a dog, Chief. My first thought was, wow, this is different. And a bit unsettling. Do we really need this?Â It quickly becomes clear why that chapter and a few others from Chiefâ€™s POV are necessary.
One of the most engaging voices in the story is Marshal Lawe, the law in Peony Springs, who introduces the story and the major players. Thereâ€™s enough â€œcountryâ€ in his language to set him firmly in time and place, and heâ€™s probably the only objective observer of the goings on after young Angus DeCosta is almost killed by a bunch of MacKay men and Nick DeCosta shows up with shotgun in hand. He only had birdshot in the gun, but no matter. He wounded a few of the MacKay men, so he is arrested on attempted murder charges. This is ironic because some of the MacKayâ€™s are also arrested for the attempted murder of Angus DeCosta.
The bad blood between these families is sort of a New England version of the Hatfield and McCoyâ€™s, and Marshal Lawe has to ride herd on the MacKayâ€™s in the Potemkin County Courthouse as the trial commences. In addition to being such an engaging character,
Lawe is also probably the smartest man in the story, as evidenced in his comment about Judge Halbertson, â€œHe took one semester of Latin in High School and now he thinks heâ€™s omnivorous.â€
He may talk like a country hick, but no yokel ever used a word like omnivorous. For that reason, some editor could have asked that the word be taken out. But it works. And it was a clever, simple way to reveal more about Marshal Lawe without having to do an â€œinformation dump.â€
There is much to like about this book. All the characters are interesting and well defined, and speak with authentic voices. The setting is so firmly established, I could almost believe I had been transported from Texas in 2008 to rural Massachusetts in 1929.
The book, which is engaging from page one, comes from Capital Crime Press. They are noted for taking a chance with new voices and new styles in writing and some of their titles have gone on to win major awards. The style of this book is so different from anything coming from the major New York Houses, that Capital Crimes Press may have been the only publisher brave enough to give it a green light. Iâ€™m glad they did.
Brant Randall is the pseudonym of Bruce Cook, who teaches Communications at Woodbury University and Cinema at Lost Angeles City College. Bruce has earned credits as writer, producer, or director on eleven independent feature films. He holds degrees in Physics, Mathematics, Film, and Communications, and his first job was as a laser physicist on the Apollo Project. His first novel was Philippine Fever.
Maryann Miller Â Maryann’s Web site