“A Coon Hunter’s Noir” by Frank Bill

I’ve never been on a raccoon hunt. I do, however, fondly recall that several of the many tales my granddad used to tell – as my brothers and I crowded around his chair pleading, “Tell us a story!” – involved coon hunting adventures in his youth (Yes, I’m sure only slightly embellished 🙂 ) I was pleased, though, when I drew the King of Spades for week 14 of Deal Me In which I had assigned to this story from the acclaimed collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana.” Author Frank Bill is an Indiana writer from the town Corydon, just north of the Ohio River. (A little known trivia fact is that Corydon was the first capital of my home state, serving in that capacity from 1816 until 1825.) All this means I’m counting this as another “Reading Local” post at Bibliopohilopolis!

Bill has the surprising “distinction” of having three stories in my 2015 Deal Me In roster – the only author this year with three spots. (I’m reading two of his stories in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, and this story was the last one I added to round out my “darker stories” spades suit. Bill’s writing style is certainly “suit”able for that honor.

J. W. Duke, the protagonist of the story, lives – not surprisingly – in Sourhern Indiana and is fond of coon hunting, but his real talent is in breeding dogs that will become good coon hounds. The story begins with his prize hound, “Blondie” turning up missing. This is alarming because, as we also learn, “…some shady son of a bitch has been stealing folk’s top-of-the-bloodline hounds for months” in the region. J. W. goes on the warpath to recover his hounds. He finds more than he bargained for on this quest, however, and the betrayal-revealing climax is one of edge-of-your seat anticipation.

Coon Hunting is a bigger deal than probably many people realize. At least those who don’t subscribe to American Cooner magazine…

I must say I enjoy the style in which Bill delivers quick characterizations or descriptions of the people who populate his stories. One example from this one is what we read when J.W. sneaks up on his enemy, Combs, and peeks inside his window:

“The bastard’s seated at a table littered with newspapers and magazines. Calm as a crustacean. That harelip smirk he postures as a stupid smile. Having his last breakfast. Shoveling chunks of egg into his mouth. Yolk cobwebbing down his thorny beard of a chin.”

“Calm as a crustacean.” I love it. A front runner for my Simile of the Year awards. 🙂 Have you read anything by this author? I covered another of his stories in last year’s Deal Me In challenge (“Amphetamine Twitch” which I posted about at https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/amphetamine-twitch-a-short-story-by-frank-bill/ )

Finally, in honor of the upcoming return of HBO’s Game Of Thrones – now just a week away! – I thought I’d share this Ned Stark King of spades from http://graphiccontent-design.tumblr.com/post/23169279176/ned


  1. tracybham said,

    April 5, 2015 at 11:18 am

    I have heard of this book and I was afraid the stories were too gritty for me. The mystery blogger who has the book is more into noir and grit than I am. The book cover above is a bit more appealing than the one I had seen previously. Your description of the story does get me interested. I will keep my eyes open for this book.

    On another note, my husband is from Ohio (but we have never visited the area). He had relatives in Indiana and his experiences there is the closest I have gotten to Indiana. From this it doesn’t sound a lot different from Alabama, where I grew up. Colder of course.


  2. Dale said,

    April 5, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    I really enjoyed the one visit I made to Corydon. Also, for some reason this story reminds me of the book I read as a kid “Where The Red Fern Grows”. Other than it being about dogs and being sad, I don’t remember much about it. I’m sure this is a more adult story, though.


  3. hkatz said,

    April 6, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Yes! I love “calm as a crustacean” too, and the “yolk cob-webbing.” I’ve never read or heard a story about coon-hunting as far as I can remember, but I’d like to find out more through this one.


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