The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon by Frank Bill – selection #22 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦3♦ Three of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”

The Selection: “The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon” from the 2011 short story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana.

The Author: Frank Bill. I don’t see much recent activity on his blog, but he’s active on Twitter if you would like to follow him there at @HouseofGrit

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon

“After all these damn years of running, you gotta trot in here and turn yourself in.” Mac looked Scoot dead in his eyes and told him, “Guilt’s a heavy package for a man to carry. It’s wrapped by all the wrongs a man’ll do, which are really lessons he learns by living life so he don’t do them no more.”

This was a good story. Like the other stories by Frank Bill I’ve blogged about (This Bitter Pill, A Coon Hunter’s Noir, and Amphetamine Twitch), it’s gritty, visceral, and… somewhat disturbing. Our title character, Scoot McCutcheon, doesn’t go by that name any more.  He’s been a fugitive from the law for years.  He’s now just “Deets” but, in a flashback, we learn of his crime, perpetrated in the small town of Corydon (once the Indiana State Capital).  He walked in on another man and his wife. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the extenuating circumstances of that encounter, but will say they enable the reader to sympathize with Deets.

He’s spent the past five years wandering from town to town, down “as far south as Greenville, Alabama,” and west to Missouri. Part of his routine when visiting a town would be to check the post office, and pull wanted posters of “a man who haunted him.” (himself, of course)  These were evidence of “an identity that wouldn’t let him forget. That wouldn’t let him start over.”  As you can see by the opening quotation, Scoot does eventually turn himself in, because, as Mac (a sheriff) tells him, guilt really is a heavy load to bear.

The story is available as part of the author’s collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” which, as noted above, has made several appearances in my annual Deal Me In challenges, and I doubt that I’m done with it yet.  It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YD6GM0/

What about you?  Can you think of any favorite literature you’ve read where guilt plays a major role? Did YOU know that Indianapolis wasn’t always the capital of Indiana? 🙂

Above pic from my Kindle App reader; Author pic in header photo from Writers Digest

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“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

Top Ten Tuesday! – Top Ten Books on my Winter Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the talented folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. Hundreds participate EVERY week. Why not be one of them – if you’re not already? & If you’re visiting Bibliophilopolis for the first time, I invite you to look around a bit to see if our reading tastes overlap orjustleave a comment to say “Hi.” I usually check out every tenth TTT post on their list. I’d like to view more, but there’re just way too many. 🙂

Top Ten Books on my Winter To Read List:

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10. The Universe vs. Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
I’ve forgotten where I first heard of this one, but it sounded interesting. It’s on my TR shelf at Goodreads.com which I’ve promised myself to clear out. (Where have I heard that before?)

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9. Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin
This one’s been around for awhile and I’ve been hearing good things about it for just as long. My blogging colleague Dale at Mirror with Clouds is reading it now, so unless he pans it in a review, it’ll be part of my winter list.

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(above: Eleanor Catton with her prize-winning novel)

8. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The 2013 Mann-Booker prize winner. I enjoyed one of the other finalists for this year’s prize so much (see my last post), I thought I should give the winner a try.

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7. Dirtyville Rhapsodies by Josh Green
Recommended to me by author Robert Rebein at a book event this summer at Bookmama’s Bookstore. Green was also a student here in Indy. AND it was reviewed favorably by my local blogging colleague, Melissa at  so I’ll give it a read.

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6. Annals of the Former World by John McPhee
A non-fiction classic. Recommended by a neighbor of mine from I was growing up, who has now lived in New Mexico for many years. He visited here this summer and we talked books. It was also a favorite of my Dad, who didn’t dispense his approbation lightly.

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(above: Herman Melville)

5. Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
Somehow I was volunteered to lead a discussion of this novella next month. I’ve read it before, but probably twenty years ago and I remember almost nothing

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4. Our Lady of Artichokes and other Portuguese-American Stories by Katherine Vaz
I met a couple from Portugal who were in town for a conference and happened to visit the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Over lunch at Bluebeard (a restaurant named after a Vonnegut novel!) I mentioned my annual short story project and asked for recommendations. This was one of them.

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3. Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories by Frank Bill
I was intrigued by this title, and then I also heard some good things about it. As an Indiana resident myself, I feel I should read it. 🙂

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2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Several friends and acquaintances have read this one. It’s my turn.

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1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
Finally I will read this, which has been on my list for a long time. Its another Mann-Booker prizewinner (from 2005). My friend and co-worker Jane gifted her copy to me after she finished it or her book club. So, no excuse not to read it now. 🙂 This will be first up if I ever finish Barbara Kingsolver’s “Flight Behavior”

That’s it for me. What books will you “hole up with” while you’re awaiting spring…?