In an homage to spaghetti westerns such as Once Upon a Time in the West, Craig Boyack has created a rollicking, rolling, and compelling adventure in a post-apocalyptic American Gulf Coast world. I read it in one day, enjoying every morsel.
Mari and her husband and young son enjoy a simple life as tobacco farmers, in a world that was torn apart by what appears to be a nuclear war – one which destroyed civilization, leaving only pockets of humanity here and there. One day when Mari is out hunting a turkey, raiders visit their farm and murder her husband and child, ransacking the house and killing one of their bulls. When Mari returns, her world is done. When the local sheriff has bigger fish to fry than find the killers, she buries her family and decides that her future is to seek revenge on the men that cost her everything. She’s not particularly suited for this adventure, but she packs up everything she thinks she will need in a one-axle cart made from the bed of red Chevy Silverado and hitches up her remaining ox to the buggy shafts. Dirt, the ox, is a major character in the story and with his six foot horn span and recalcitrant nature, the reader has to love him.
Mari’s quest takes her across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and into Texas. Along the way, she camps most nights because she has no money and she spends that time considering her personal demons, with the help of pieces of tobacco plugs and moonshine called white dog. Mari is one tough cookie. The author paints the reader an unimaginable world created from what we know of ours, making the remains of ordinary things into a structural landscape that surprised me at every turn.
Mari meets some fabulously drawn characters on her trek: Kelilah, a black woman living on her own in the swampy wilderness who rescues Mari after she is set upon by the men who killed Mari’s family; Miss Laura, the skeleton of a long-dead black woman, whose cabin provides Mari with things she needs to stay alive; an abandoned but loving hound dog she names Worthless; and Vance Dunham, an old man with a store where she can trade. He shows her how to use a revolver, how to shoot accurately and, most importantly, how to fight.
Will Mari find the men she seeks and if she does, what will she do? And what will happen to her afterward? I leave it to other readers to find out, but the author will surprise you.
I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it to any reader looking for a rip-snorting adventure with a tough central character. The story reminds me of Don Quixote and a Clint Eastwood western rolled into one.
About the author:
Craig Boyack was born in Elko, Nevada, which the author claims has always been a little behind the times and gives him a unique perspective. He moved to Idaho in the early 2000s and jumped into his writing career where he found other writers and critique groups. He likes to write about things that are unusual, and his books are science fiction, fantasy and paranormal designed to entertain his readers.
You can find C.S. Boyack
On twitter @virgilante
and on his blog: https://coldhandboyack.wordpress.com/
Once Upon a Time in the Swamp and his other books can be found on Amazon.