Call it grit-lit, rough-Americana or rural noir—it seems to be a genre unto itself complete with established tropes. Did you find yourself fighting against any in Country Hardball?
Well, I wanted to avoid the alcoholic, meth-addled criminal with a good heart who goes up against a bad cop set out to destroy him. I’ve seen many of the “Meth is plot/ Cops are bad” books lately. That wasn’t the book I wanted to write. I wanted to dig into the souls of these folks.
Sure, you’ve got shelves of books in which meth and evil cops terrorize the countryside. But what about the people I know? At the end, we do our best when we tell the stories we want to tell. Meth can destroy lives, but what about the guy at the Piggly Wiggly who is going through a divorce and just had his hours cut back? Those are the everyday events that can send you into the ditch. The skyscraper collapsing in a Michael Bay movie is a tragedy. But what about that piece of glass that slivers inside you and eats away at your insides? Sure, you can have great books about evil sheriffs battling against a methy family in the backwoods. Heck, Hollywood and New York City love to show those stories of country folks. But I wanted to delve into the characters. What happens to Clint when his tiny world falls apart? Where does he go to date again? What happens when a graduate student moves around the country trying to write about “rural life”? What happens when a good man gives up a baseball career to be a cop? What are the big bad guys in my book? Cancer and high-interest credit cards. These are the things that beat down good people. These are the demons being fought against by people I know. Crooked cops and meth kingpins exist, sure. And people have written some great books about them. But those weren’t the main stories I wanted to tell in Country Hardball. I wanted to write about reaching for redemption, about struggling with the day-to-day. The best rural noir stories I’ve read, those by Bonnie Jo Campbell and Larry Brown and Ben Whitmer, are those that don’t lend themselves to a simple description, those that can’t be set up in the 30-second elevator pitch.
Having your hours cut back at work, having your interest rate jacked to 30 percent because of a late payment—these are the “rural noir” crimes I’ve seen beat people down.
[Issue coming soon, we promise. It’s days away mofos. Note: issue also features an excerpt from a new novel by Mr. Weddle.]