cover image Country Hardball

Country Hardball

Steve Weddle. Tyrus (F + W Media, dist.), $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4405-7080-3

Ex-con Roy Alison would like to go straight, but he can’t seem to make up for past mistakes, and his only options are just more bad choices. Weddle’s debut novel is a suspenseful series of interrelated stories of tragedy, despair, and hopelessness in a rural Southern town. There is no joy here, as Weddle paints a vivid, depressing picture of a blue-collar community crushed by economic collapse and endemic substance abuse with characters, events, and dialogue that seem all too real. Roy easily drifts back into a world of violence and crime with his worthless cousin, Cleovis, but still harbors a desire to do right. As folks mourn for sons killed in Iraq and struggle with unemployment, Roy becomes involved in helping to carry out a string of crimes that gradually turn out to be connected. These are gritty stories of people facing nothing but bad options, though Roy eventually manages to make something good come from his situation. The most powerful image, however, is Weddle’s description of an old lady who keeps all her hopes in a little box—one that’s empty. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Nov.)