I received this as an Advance Review Copy, which was a little misleading. I read the blurb about it and remember thinking “This sounds like an old-fashioned Southern crime thriller”.
The truth is that the book (due for publication on 16th April) is actually just a reprint. The book was originally released in 1940, and was (I believe) Ross’s only published book – a bit of a one-book wonder.
The story is set in a small North Carolina town during the Depression – the kind of town where everyone knows everyone and where there are complex shifts of power due to gossip, money and friendship.
The narrator of the story is Jack and starts when his land is repossessed for unpaid taxes, and then he drifts into working for his friend Smut Milligan as he embarks on a new venture to build a roadhouse.
Smut has a propensity for illicit dealings – moonshine, gambling and an eye for the girl married to one of the richest men in town.
The majority of the book is a kind of gentle narrative of life in that kind of town in the 1930′s, and I have to say that I enjoyed it immensely. There was then the turning point of the story, where Smut’s greed for money and power overtakes his common sense and morals, and Jack becomes embroiled in an event that he would much rather not have.
How the two of them deal with the fallout from this, Jack’s inner turmoil and his need for redemption carry the story through to its inevitable conclusion.
The book is a curious mixture of gentle innocence and harrowing violence that works extremely well, BUT you have to be prepared for the fact that it was published in 1940!
The use of the n-word throughout can only be expected given the time and location, and the derogatory picture of the black population and the somewhat ‘backward’ hicks is obviously not unusual when you consider it was written.
Reading it in 2013 however, some of the terminology jarred somewhat, and I found it quite difficult to ignore. I know that this is a slightly unfair criticism, and that if you knew when the book was originally written before reading it, you would expect this kind of language, and adjust your mindset for it. However, I kind of went into a little blind – which I realise is my own fault.
The story is excellent though, and I can imagine it making a great character-led film, as the characters are fantastic and really come to life.
If you can handle the ‘of-the-time’ language, and enjoy character stroies with not a lot of action, you’ll probably love this slice of American history!
They Don’t Dance Much will be (re)published on 16th April 2013.
Last night, I made my way into the uncharted territory that is South London. I think people make too much of the UK North/South divide (although it makes for hours of entertainment in my house – me being an Essex Girl, and The Man being a Boro Boy). The REAL divide is that of Old Father Thames.
North London and South London seem to be totally different beasts – and people tend to be extremely loyal to which part they are in, and will argue to the death (or the hoarseness at least) as to why ‘their’ side is better. Once you have lived in one part, you don’t tend to stray to the other.
Anyway, I digress. I ventured to Putney, which amused me when I was on the train as I just finished reading The War of the Worlds, in which of course most of the action occurs in the places where the train I was on was visiting. I kept thinking “Martians!” and then giggling to myself (not very loudly though, as I was on the quiet carriage, and hey, this was South London – there was no telling what might happen to me!).
One of my lovely friends is in a play at Putney Arts Theatre and me and a few of his other friends met up to go and see him do his thing. The play was Round & Round The Garden by Alan Ayckbourn which is apparently part of a trilogy called The Norman Conquests which can all stand alone.
It was actually really really good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Parts of it bordered on farce, but it was never really full-blown ‘whoops there go my trousers’, but just gentle and funny. The cast were great and my mate was obviously the star of the show, playing a gentle slightly dim vet who kind of bumbled along and didn’t have a single clue about how to deal with women (not too hard a stretch for my lovely gay friend!).
I thought it was great. I love the venue (it’s a converted church – I have been before as another friend is heavily involved in the theatre) and the company was fantastic – I love it when you can relax into easy camaraderie with your friends’ friends!
I came home all warm and glowing…and then opened a letter that was a parking fine that The Man had got. I am still not talking to him.