The Whiting Award--winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe--mules.Read more...
The Whiting Award--winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe--mules.
A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion--making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.
Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of Leland Hatcher, the richest man in Richfield, Tennessee, and the former owner of The Midnight Cool. The horse would be worth a fortune--if she weren't a verified man-killer who attacks on sight. Charles and Billy are rooted in this muggy town until they can miraculously retrain their recalcitrant mare, and in the shadow of the growing inevitability of war, their bond begins to fray. Falling in love with Catherine--and under the spell of the deceitful, wealthy Leland, the vision of himself he'd like to be--Charles pulls away from the older man.
Despite their growing distance, Billy and Charles find their business thriving when the war in Europe pushes the demand for mules sky-high and the United States enters the fight. But when a trade goes terribly wrong, Charles is forced to reevaluate his allegiance to his country, the moral implications of his lifestyle, his relationship with Catherine, and, ultimately, his mysterious and surprisingly deep connection to Billy.
Populated by spirited, memorable characters, The Midnight Cool is a startlingly profound tale of aspiration, loyalty, and love--and the eternal search for something lasting in a transitory world.
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Crafty horse traders try to take a town for a ride
“This is a hell of a country, isn’t it? You choose your story. Then you go out and make it happen.” In Lydia Peelle’s debut novel, The Midnight Cool, main characters Billy and Charlie are doing exactly that, harnessing their charm, grit and self-reliance to forge a better life. This theme is not new, but in the gifted hands of Peelle it rises off the page in a fresh, daring fashion.
The Midnight Cool opens in the summer of 1916, as war rages in Europe and political tensions are running high. Charlie and Billy are traveling horse traders who arrive in Richfield, Tennessee, a fictional town just north of Nashville. Both are smooth-talking grifters who specialize in the art of the underhanded deal.
Upon arriving in town they set their sights on a gorgeous mare who belongs to the wealthy Leland Hatcher. Despite warnings from Catherine, Leland’s daughter, they purchase the mare only to discover her violent, deadly past. Indebted and unable to unload the temperamental animal, they turn to selling mules to the British army to recoup their lost funds. All the while, Charlie’s feelings for Catherine, a woman very much above his station, are intensifying, and the bonds between Charlie and Billy are beginning to fray.
Peelle is a writer to watch. She deftly recounts the surprisingly fascinating history of mules, who bore the brunt of American labor during this period and whose resiliency and strength made them key players in the war effort, while also giving us a rich, satisfying novel, full of memorable characters grappling with love, loyalty, identity and the struggle to build something that lasts in a rapidly changing world.