Sometimes you pick up a book for no good reason. Maybe the front cover draws you. You flip it over and peruse the dust jacket. You to take it home and, damn, you’ve uncovered a new author for yourself.
That was me and “Joe” by Larry Brown. Joe Ransom’s a whiskey swilling, rough-cut, ex-con lumber company foreman that poisons trees for a living. He lives along the underbelly in a sweaty Mississippi county drinking, gambling, and womanizing. Gary Jones, 15, underfed, no schooling, and short on hope, forms a thin, unlikely bond with Joe. They careen toward redemption with Joe’s devils and Gary’s itinerant farm worker family headed by his murderous, unwashed father. Some dreams seem small. Then again, dreams are life-sized.
Larry Brown (1951-2004) is not a new author. A book of essays, one memoir, six novels, and two collections of short stories make up his published writing chops. Often compared to Cormac McCarthy, Harry Crews, and William Faulkner, he cites Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, and Charles Bukowski as writing- life influences. Factor in song lyrics by Leonard Cohen, film industry friends like Billy Bob Thornton, and Texas rock band leader Alejandro Escovedo and you come up with a shape called Brown.
Advice to new writers, don’t get discouraged.