Gods of Howl Mountain
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.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Taylor Brown
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published: March 20th 2018
Publishing House: St. Martin's Press
Mountain lore, spirits of the whispering trees, moonshine, snake worship and spirit healers! Taylor Brown delivers another tale of amazing intrinsic atmosphere both in place and time. Nostalgically and robust, rooted deeply in Appalachian folklore, this story travels into the depths of a small mountain community of the 1950’s.
Maybelline Docherty, or also called “Granny May” has the wisdom of healers past. Living in her cabin away in the mountains, some believe her to be a witch. With her backroom stocked with tinctures, spirits, herbs, and poisons she has healed any ailment yet…from coughs to impotence. In the mountains she is feared with a dose of respect, down in the town she is shunned and avoided…yet many secretly seek her treatments up at the cabin.
Rory Docherty is Granny May’s grandson. He’s a Nascar fan and Korean War veteran. His war injury makes it difficult for him to find work; a man with a wooden leg isn’t getting hired easily. So he makes his runs in a beat up car as a whiskey-runner from high society clientele to local brothels and bars. He lives with his granny, away from civilization and still has nightmares from the war. Maybelline has raised the boy and been his best defense and beck and call, ever since his mother was assaulted physically and her lover beat to death. But granny swears she still carries the eye of the man at fault for this tragedy in her pocket.
Rory has set his eyes on the local preacher’s daughter, but to him he is no good. For her he even enters the church and joins the locals as they transcend into the sermon’s rattle snake worship of mind altering proportions. He gains the girl’s affections, but other troubles are looming.
Disguised federal agents are going around posing to have an interest in moonshine, infiltrating into the trade. Narrowly escaping, Rory plays a high risk game to mislead the authorities and wagers his heart.
Will Granny be able to save Rory this time? Or is she already a step ahead of the game and has them all fooled?
This was the second novel I read by Taylor Brown and my experience with both of them was that of reading a richly crafted story of imagery and magnificent voice. His ability to write and transcend into the subject or time stands on its own unmatched.
I spent a lot of time in the Appalachian Mountains throughout my life incl. rural areas, it’s my second home. I can envision Brown’s atmospheric details perfectly. If you have a chance, listen to the audiobook version as well, the narrator adds a perfect touch with dialect and tone.
When describing this novel in any other word then gritty, which it is, I immediately think of an analogy for a dark hoppy beer. Perhaps barrel aged…if that makes sense. Simply rich and infused, aromatic and dark.
Fans of ‘Bearskin’ by James A. McLaughlin would enjoy this novel. For me ‘Gods of Howl Mountain’ was a better experience.
Feeling the mountains and its lore calling? Definitely read this novel!
And yes, my cat never fails to photo bomb!