Thursday, November 12, 2015


It's always a great feeling when you feel like you've discovered a new author that's on the cusp of blowing up. When you feel that great privilege of knowing that not only is there still a whole career's worth of material to look forward to, but also once he/she gets hugely successful, you can say, "I was a fan from the beginning." In The Season of Blood and Gold (released last year in 2014) is Taylor Brown's debut, a collection of hard-hitting short stories, some of which have already won awards. 
"In a world gone white, ghosts must be the color of shadow."
I'm here to tell you that Brown is the real deal. His writing is some of the very best that I've read all year. He has a real mastery of language, using it in expressive ways, evoking both atmosphere, character, and emotion with impressive economy. There are some stories that seem like they could have been written by a young Cormac McCarthy, where Brown uses words like a mallet and chisel, making sure they stick with you long after reading. Here's the opening line of the award-winning story "Kingdom Come":
"The boy dropped the knife into the stone mouth of the well and watched the blade glitter into the depths, blood from its edge red-clouding its wake, haunting the blade like tidings of its history."
The stories take place in a wide variety of places and times, ranging from the Old West past to even a post-apocalyptic future. A big similarity that I noticed in the stories were the characters, all of which seem to be adrift in their respective worlds, searching for connections, their identities defined by what they do, whether it be a poacher, a soldier, a piano player, a moonshiner, a tattoo artist, or even an alligator wrestler.

My favorite story in the collection, "Whorehouse Piano," blew me away with it's efficiency in the way it illustrates the fascinating character of Lucy and how hard it hits emotionally in just five pages. It's about a former whore who now plays piano in her brothel, her complex and bittersweet relationship with the owner, and her journey to see her estranged father.
"They drove all night into bayou darkness, low-hung moss and the scarce reflection of blackwater amid the mangroves. Highway signs reared before them, bleary and wayward-tilted. Red-flattened carcasses of small mammals littered the road. Whoreson crossed himself when he saw them, reborn. Her hand retreated when he tried to hold it. They never touched, not since the night he slit her throat."
Other standout stories include "Sin-Eaters," set in an apocalyptic future, where one young man decides to buck the system once he finds beauty in a terrible world, "Bone Valley," about a lonely guy who wrestles gators for a living, as well as the beautiful title story, about a young Civil War soldier who risks everything after he meets the love of his life. This story also seems like it might be the basis for Brown's upcoming debut novel, Fallen Land, which I will be scooping up like a hotcake as soon as I can. So excited to read more from this guy! 


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