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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“This Bitter Pill” by Frank Bill

For week 31 of the 2015 Deal Me In challenge, I drew the eight of diamonds, which I had assigned to the Frank Bill short story, “This Bitter Pill” from the Indy Writes Books anthology. Now in its fifth year, Deal Me In is an annual short story reading challenge (explained here). My list of stories I’m reading this year, with links to those I’ve posted about, may be found here.


The randomized order of my Deal Me In selections often produces eerie coincidences. For instance, just this week, in nearby Anderson, Indiana, police broke up a heroin ring of more than twenty(!) people. (News article may be found here if you’d like to be depressed) Heroin addiction and its consequences is the subject of Frank Bill’s short story, “This Bitter Pill,” originally published in Pank Magazine but also reprinted in the “Indy Writes Books” anthology, which I own a copy of.

“Tar Baby” is an eighteen year old mother of a newborn. She has a deadbeat boyfriend, “Patch Work,” a stuttering, “stillbrain” whose main attraction appears to be that he “scores good drugs.” She works at a low-paying convenience store job, and is, along with her boyfriend, a heroin addict. Tar Baby and Patch Wwork have gotten into debt to a despicable dealer, “Deuce,” using some of the money that friendly relatives have given them to help “the young couple out with the baby” as a down payment on a fix and promising the rest, thinking they’ll pay Deuce back  when Tar Baby gets her meager paycheck. Sadly, they discover that much of that money is needed for diapers and other baby-related expenses.

What to do? It seems one option is that Deuce is notorious for taking payment in flesh – usually in sadistic ways – from his delinquent female customers. This option hangs in the background throughout this short story as the young couple try to cope.

This was not a pleasant story, and I’m still a little perplexed at how it found its way into this anthology, the submissions for which were supposed to have “something to do with reading, writing, literacy, books, or bookstores.” I guess a stretch could be made that “illiteracy” might be assumed to be among the young couple’s shortcomings, though that isn’t explicitly stated. Illiteracy is rampant, in general, in the margins of society that these characters inhabit. In fact “margins” of society is a good choice of words here, as one of the problems that keeps people like this down is the fact that there is little or no margin for error in their lives. Just one setback or piece of bad luck (or more often a bad decision) can quickly derail any progress (or the hope of progress) being made to extricate themselves from the margin…

I continued to enjoy the author’s gritty and visceral writing style in this story (as I have in his previous works that I’ve read, “Coon Hunter’s Noir” and “Amphetamine Twitch“) I have one more story of his to go in this year’s Deal Me In, titled “What Once Was” and am looking forward to reading it.

Indy Writes Books is an anthology for sale by Indy Reads Books, with all proceeds going to support local adult literacy programs, an undeniably worthy cause which Bibliophilopolis is happy to support. If the Indy Writes Books anthology sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider purchasing a copy. More info may be found at http://www.indyreads.org/indy-writes-books/

Up next for week 32 of Deal Me In 2015 (Also from Indy Writes Books): “Your Book: A Novel in Stories” by Cathy Day.

Below (from goodreads.com): author Frank Bill

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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

A Hoosier-Flavored R.I.P. Challenge

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I’ve decided to follow the lead of my Deal Me In 2014 comrade, Randall, and participate in the ninth annual R.I.P. (“Readers Imbibing Peril”) Challenge (R.I.P. IX – hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings) this year, in a short story, mini-Deal Me In format. Randall’s initial post for his participation in the challenge may be found here.  I’ve selected thirteen short stories to read before the end of October. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll blog about them individually or in a couple summarized posts. I’ve picked three stories from known or classic authors, but the theme for the remainder of my selections is “authors with an Indiana connection.”

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Here’s my list of stories for the RIP challenge. As with Deal Me In, I’ll read them in random order via the luck of the draw. Naturally, I’ll be using the spades suit to draw my cards.:-)

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A. Feeders and Eaters – Neil Gaiman (“The Weird” anthology)
2. The Summer People – Shirley Jackson (“The Weird” anthology) -read 9/19
3. Axolotl – Julio Cortozar (“The Weird” anthology) – read 9/23
4. Strunke City DeRail – Murphy Edwards (Terror Train anthology )
5. Venus Rising from the Foam – James Owens (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)
6. Crimes in Southern Indiana – Frank Bill (“Crimes in Southern Indiana” story collection) -read 9/22
7. Because You Watched – Paula Ashe (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
8. The Hunt – Bret Nye – (Midwestern Gothic magazine volume 6)
9. The Rose Garden – James Ward Kirk (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
10. The Hike – Brian Rosenberger (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
J. The Old Crone and the Scarecrow – Allen Griffin (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) – read 9/20
Q. The Shadow Man of Moonspine Bridge – Matt Cowan (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) -read 9/21
K. The Boy That Created Monsters – Paul DeThroe (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)

I’ve seen – and even met and talked to few of these writers – at various book events around town in the past year or so, and reading some more of their work should prove interesting.  Are you participating in the R.I.P. Challenge this year??

“Amphetamine Twitch” a short story by Frank Bill

Note: I’ll still be publishing a weekly wrap-up post for the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Challenge this Sunday, with links to any new posts (since the last wrap-up) by the participants. Here’s my second story, though…

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Story #2 – “Amphetamine Twitch” by Frank Bill

This week I drew the two of spades for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. Deuces are “wild” so I had no story assigned to this card. Spades are my suit for “darker stories” so I thought I’d try one from the acclaimed collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” by Frank Bill. (Read the Goodreads capsule on this book at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10713935-crimes-in-southern-indiana?from_search=true ) Oh, and I live in Indiana too. Central Indiana, though. 🙂 I searched the contents and settled on this one based on title only. Like millions of others, last year I got caught up in the amazing AMC series, “Breaking Bad,” whose main character (if you’ve been living under a rock) Walter White “breaks bad” and becomes a methamphetamine cook. So, I opened my book to page 162 and started reading…

The first two sentences grab the reader instantly and paint a vivid picture: “Alejandro’s knuckles sprayed backdoor glass across kitchen tile. His fingers twisted red on the doorknob and deadbolt.” Pretty vivid imagery, huh? Alejandro is addicted to crystal meth but, as chance has it, his latest victims are the family of a member of law enforcement, detective Mitchell, who later blames himself for not being home when the break-in occurred. Heap this on top of his already soured outlook on what life “in these parts” had come to in the past few years when “…everything had become tense. Meth had scourged the land. Made working-class folk less human. More criminal,” and you have a character ready to exact some brutal revenge.

“Hollywood” has always seemed to make the drug trade somewhat glamorous, and of course it doesn’t always show the bottom line impact to normal people. Breaking Bad was for the most part like that. With the exception of a few interludes where Jesse was running his own private house full of drug-stupor-ed friends, we don’t see the countless working class people that formed the base of Walter White’s towering pyramid of cash. In this story, we do see a scene of those at the bottom when Alejandro is “holed up with a new crop of illegals in a one-bedroom shack. Men with frayed ends and raisin features plastered like the dead from a battlefield across the room.”

No punches are pulled in this story. The realities are harsh and violent, which makes it a hard story to like, but what’s not hard is appreciating the gritty and powerful writing. My only problem with it was that, in my opinion, the plot of this particular story itself didn’t seem up to the level of the writing. It’s a relatively basic story of revenge but not much more. Still, I’ll be reading the rest of the stories in the book at some point.

What short stories did YOU read this week? Had you heard of this author before? (I hadn’t until a couple months ago) Were you also a fan of Breaking Bad?

Below: Bryan Cranston would never have made that kind of money as Jerry’s dentist on “Seinfeld” would he?

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