Hell at the Breech: A Novel

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Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. Add to Cart. Product Highlights Based on incidents that occurred a few miles from the author's childhood home, this extraordinary first novel is set in Alabama at a time when residents formed a secret society, Hell-at-the-Breech, to punish townspeople for the murder of an aspiring politician. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information.

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Just before the dawn of the twentieth century in Mitcham's Beat, Alabama, a stretch of hardscrabble farmland whose occupants mind their own business, an ingenious plan bears fruit. With the shocking murder of Arch Bedsole, word spreads quickly that someone from town assassinated the storekeeper to keep him out of local politics. Soon the denizens of Mitcham's Beat gather and discuss retaliation, unwilling to let the fancy folks from Grove Hill or Coffeetown interfere in country business.


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United in purpose and inspired by an excess of bootleg whiskey, they form an association, Hell-at-the-Breech, one whose members will sign a blood oath and make a vow of secrecy. Soon there are two murders and tales of nightriders with covered faces.

When questioned by the law, everyone has an alibi. This conflict between country and town is paralleled by the book's two opposing forces -- Grove Hill Sheriff Billy Waite and the lethal chaos of Hell-at-the-Breech. And there's also the third-party viewpoint of Mack Burke, a local teenager who has literally been enslaved by the gang's leader, "Tooch" Bledsoe. Tooch has apparently taken over New Prospect and is looking to expand, whipping up a guerilla war, first against the local farming community, then the town of Grove Hill.

Some of those caught up in this brutal wave are background fauna, such as the Widow Gates, a reclusive country midwife who seems more like a witch, or opportunistic freaks like Ardy Grant, a cunning psychopath who talks to himself in the made-up voices of his victims.

Waite is swept up into the building psychosis almost unwillingly, but snaps to once the Grove Hill citizens transmogrify themselves into "a lynch mob with an appetite. The answer to the mystery of the first murder is reserved for the ashes of the story's very end. The conflict between order and chaos is hardly new to either the Western or mystery genres, but "Hell at the Breech" doesn't entirely fit in either category. Perhaps it is a slice of the Wild West transplanted back East, or a parable of southern secession from centralized authority.

But despite its similarities to the sort of Western penned by Elmore Leonard, it is closer to "Heart of Darkness" -- and even closer to "Lord of the Flies" -- in its depiction of the regression of mankind to savagery. Franklin just happened to set his story in the South in the s, but the themes in this dark and gruesome tale belong to no one time. House votes to keep U.


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