Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-13
- Reviewer: Staff
National Book Critics Circle Award–finalist Taylor (The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart) has written a sprawling, lively serio-comic mountaineer novel set in his native West Virginia. The yarn opens in the summer of 1910, when 30-year-old card shark Abe Baach and his girlfriend, Goldie Toothman, are condemned to hang for the murder of Henry Trent, the mayor of Keystone. The story then backtracks seven years earlier, when Abe works at his father’s saloon whenever he isn’t sharpening his poker-playing skills and earning the sobriquet The Keystone Kid. Goldie lives at the brothel in Cinder Bottom, the coal town’s Tenderloin district,while she works dealing cards. The violent, corrupt Trent, along with his diminutive henchman, police chief Rutherford, extorts protection money from the town merchants. After things turn too hot, Abe gets out of Keystone and heads for Baltimore. But before long, an urgent telegram brings Abe rushing back to Keystone. There, Abe cooks up a scheme to even the score with Trent and Rutherford, revving up the story’s madcap energy and adding in quirky plot twists. The backwoods humor is somewhat reminiscent of Daniel Woodrell, which includes flatulence jokes and over-the-top bedlam as Taylor closes out his rollicking yarn with poetic justice. (July)