Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frank Bill's "Crimes in Southern Indiana"

by Pa Rock

Life is rough in America’s meth belt, and if you want to know the just how god-awful it is, then may I recommend a book of short stories by a sensational writer by the name of Frank Bill.   The collection is called Crimes in Southern Indiana, but sadly those tales could depict the hidden life in many communities across America – the life most of us fail to observe or acknowledge.

Damn, this guy is a powerful writer!    Frank Bill’s stories show us desolate, dangerous, and despicable places that are populated with some of the strangest, sickest and sorriest people imaginable.  His characters visit taverns in the mornings and dog fights at night.    They cook meth, do meth, steal meth, and sell meth.   They maim and murder, take part in gang rapes, kill children while driving drunk, and sell the occasional granddaughter into prostitution.    And the scariest part of all is that Frank Bill’s characters are starkly real, living in the dark alleys and rusted trailers that lie just beyond our comfortable field of vision.

Every story in this book is a punch in the gut, but my two favorites are “The Accident” and “The Old Mechanic.”  Both deal with PTSD.   In the first a man in an elevator tries (or perhaps he doesn’t) to help a man on the outside whose arm gets stuck in the door and is ripped off as the elevator rises to the next floor.  The other story, “The Old Mechanic,” looks at the evolution of a World War II vet who suffers deep grief and trauma during the war before coming home to a wife and two daughters.  The girls listen in fear and silence night after night as dad beats mom senseless.     The story advances one generation to show the same veteran, now a sad and angry old man living alone, as he tries to get to know his grandson.   That man, the old mechanic, represents a true measure of the cost of war.

And then there are the rotting bodies, rusting cars, infidelities, tortures, murders, tweakers, lost souls, and more rotting bodies.  Life does not get any more real than the tales of Frank Bill.   

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