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Hell at the Breech / Christians by Tom…
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Hell at the Breech / Christians (2002)

by Tom Franklin

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1799103,957 (3.84)None
In 1897, in the Mitcham's Beat region of Alabama, a politician is murdered and his friends form a secret society to find those responsible for his killing, leaving in their wake a trail of mayhem known as the Mitcham Beat War.
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This book has been on my shelf for years waiting patiently for the right time for me to read it. I've read two or three other Tom Franklin books and found them all excellent but this one takes the cake. In one sense you have a war that appears pretty typical, in fiction anyway, with good guys and bad guys. But the more you get into it the more you realize that there is a lot more to it when you look at the participants as individuals. You start to see that the so-called villains have some redeeming characteristics and that their grievances are not without merit. You also start to see that some of the so-called good guys are not all courage and nobility and that some are, measure for measure, more evil than the any of those they are fighting against.

Bottom line: Tom Franklin is a master at building three-dimensional characters. If you can find a copy of this book, get it and read it. If you can't find it, read another of his books. They are all good.

My thanks to the folks at GoodReads' On the Southern Literary Trail group for giving me the opportunity to read and discuss this and many other fine books with others. Reading a book alone can be nioce but sharing your discovery with others makes it exponentially more satisfying. ( )
  Unkletom | Aug 16, 2017 |
This book was recommended by a friend who is very well read and it did not disappoint. It deals with a fictionalized version of a real "war" that occurred in Alabama in 1897-98. The writing is excellent and it does a great job of making you feel the difficulty of life during that time. The dealing with law and order seems more out the mid 19th century wild west than the late 19th century. The use of misinformation to fuel anger strikes a current cord when we look at our current election process. I will read more by this author. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Mar 12, 2016 |
took a while for me to get into this book about the American Mitcham war in the 1890's as I couldn't get interested in it , but t if you give it a go I found it really interesting from a weird point of view , in that it was horrific in it's violent content and graphic killings and justice and the seemingly hopeless situation the whole town faces , but in the same way It was interesting and fascinating too. I think the violence was the thing that actually kept me enthralled as I was so horrified by it . ( )
  Suzannie1 | May 12, 2013 |
When I was a young 'un, when everything was new and there was no bitter experience to cast a cynical shade over whatever was before me, I would read everything. If it had letters, I would read it. There's this exercise the teacher pulled out sometime in early elementary school and then later in late high school, a paragraph where you were supposed to count all the letter e's. In high school, I'd forgotten the trick of it and missed all the ones in the small words, the ones I'd skim over in my by-then jaded reading technique. I think that mechanical deterioration can describe my current weary and inept reading style now, skipping-stone-like.

Man, I remember being 9 and taking home about 20 library books at a time, a mix of biography, science, and fiction. I wish I'd ranged wider before realizing there was such a thing as genre. FSF became the bear trap and I didn't know to chew my leg off to get away. I was caught for a couple decades. By the time it dawned on me that the reason why I probably wasn't enjoying what I was reading was because I wanted something meatier and real, I was lost.

So I'm glad for this site and the way we all shovel through the pile for each other, pointing out this and that, books that I would never look at twice ("this one? But...there's no dragon on the cover"). I'd never know there existed such a thing as fiction with themes of and in the storytelling lilt of certain eastern mountain regions. Kinda specific and odd to me. But these kinds of books have been an ease to the agitation of my attention span.

I'm uncomfortable with the thought that the miserable and hopeless lives of these folk have the opposite effect on me. I'm not sure why. Does this mean my compassion is also hardening? Do I like these because I'm not them, hah hah nyah nyah? I...hope not, I don't think that's so. I have no answer, even one fashioned in my favor. I think I'd been able to read those FSF books indiscriminately because I didn't notice quality of writing, just the escapism of the story in the sense that my thoughts were fully occupied to the exclusion of all other troubles. But a lot of these are badly written so that started popping me out of the lull. These, I dunno. Somehow reading about hard times, so hard I've never had and will likely never have them, works.

The book? It's good. I think it's the author's first novel. It's based on real events, fictionalized. The eternal dispute between the haves and have-nots, family, loyalty, guilt, secrets, cycling violence, duty, pain, poverty. I liked how a seemingly passive character was revealed to have been a fulcrum of events, a shield. A sociopath and a psychopath. Hard times, and an ending that doesn't provide an easy happy wrap-up. ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
HELL AT THE BREECH is a story of greed and violence in a section of turn-of-the-century Alabama, which is reminiscent of the wild west. The writing carried me along; whenever the author focused on the protagonist, Sheriff Waite, the book came alive. There is an element of the mystical in one character, a midwife, who has second sight. There are the innocents who do casually evil things. There is a string of false assumptions that carry the characters into deadly actions in the novel as in real life. Justice comes in the form of a crazed mob killing innocents as well as the guilty and from the sheriff who is capable of relentless brutality. It was a well-written, at times powerful book, but one reading of this author is enough. ( )
  kencrowe | Jul 8, 2012 |
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Please distinguish between the U.S. trade paperback edition (ISBN 0060566760 / 9780060566760) and other editions of Hell at the Breech: A Novel. The trade paperback is reported to include a short story, "Christians," which does not appear in the original hardcover edition (ISBN 0688167411 / 9780688167417; http://www.librarything.com/work/1452... ). Thank you.
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