Brian Panowich’s first novel Bull Mountain tells the story of a family of outlaws, their progeny, and their end. Chronologically, it starts with Cooper and Riley Burroughs in 1949, and then there is Cooper’s son Gareth, and Gareth’s three sons Buckley, Halford, and Clayton. All live/d on or near the Bull Mountain and all are criminals besides Clayton, the town sheriff in 2015. However, the story is not told chronologically: Panowich expertly weaves the story so that all of the family’s 60 years worth of climaxes create a rising action only to be eclipsed by the most recent denouement.
The character Panowich gives the most vibrance is Clayton. He is the character in a struggle of black and white morality, the character most lifelike in his greyness. Think of Jason Bourne in the books or the movies.
How Panowich hides and unveils surprises is satisfying, however what is hidden tends to be not as exciting. His characters rarely are given the time for anagnorisis; they, as the reader, are simply hurtled toward the turn of the page and the end of the book.
Chapter by chapter, this generational geographic reminds the reader of other similarly focused writers (James Michener, Wilbur Smith), but word by word, Panowich’s use of vernacular aims to do for twentieth-century Georgia what Mark Twain did for nineteenth-century Missouri. Published in 2015, it’s a pleasure to read and a shame to put down.
Would recommend to a friend.
Probably won’t be rereading.
Will talk about for about a week.
Will think about for a month.
Will remember for at least a year.