Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith reviewed

Blackwood Book Cover Blackwood
Michael Farris Smith
Oldcastle Books
March 19, 2020

In this timeless, mythical tale of unforgiving justice and elusive grace, rural Mississippi townsfolk shoulder the pain of generations as something dangerous lurks in the enigmatic kudzu of the woods.
The town of Red Bluff, Mississippi, has seen better days, though those who've held on have little memory of when that was. Myer, the county's aged, sardonic lawman, still thinks it can prove itself -- when confronted by a strange family of drifters, the sheriff believes that the people of Red Bluff can be accepting, rational, even good.
The opposite is true: this is a landscape of fear and ghosts -- of regret and violence -- transformed by the kudzu vines that have enveloped the hills around it, swallowing homes, cars, rivers, and hiding a terrible secret deeper still.
Colburn, a junkyard sculptor who's returned to Red Bluff, knows this pain all too well, though he too is willing to hope for more when he meets and falls in love with Celia, the local bar owner. The Deep South gives these noble, broken, and driven folks the gift of human connection while bestowing upon them the crippling weight of generations. With broken histories and vagabond hearts, the townsfolk wrestle with the evil in the woods -- and the wickedness that lurks in each and every one of us.

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith is set in a small town called Red Bluff in Mississippi. It feels as though it is somewhere where nothing much happens and hasn’t for sometime. A vagabond family that no one knows anything about and seem a little less than desirable arrives. Colburn comes into the town and it seems as though there may be a history there. The sheriff has become accustomed to not needing to deal with problems. People who have lived there all there lives may be still stuck in a past. It seems that events may build up to a perfect storm.

Blackwood actually starts with a brief chapter which is set some 20 years earlier than the main part of the book. It features Colburn and his father in the main. It could well be described as disturbing. This book then follows the story of events 20 years later in Red Bluff. The writing gives a deep sense of place. One further “character” needs mentioning. There is the kudzu. I realise very early on that “kudzu” – a word I had not come across – was going to be important. I looked it up and realised that for some places this invasive plant causes major problems.

The main characters are well developed and alive for me. I can feel there heat and see the kudzu. Blackwood was far easier to continue to read than put down. I also had little idea where it might go by the end. Throughout there is a sense of dread. It is dark and bleak at times however not depressingly so for me.

Last year I read this author’s book “Desperation Road” and I loved it. I was very happy indeed to be able to read another of his books. His writing is so vivid and rich. I know of few authors who can conjure up the emotions and scenes as well as Michael Farris Smith can. I will certainly continue to read his books. Fans should love this and those new to his work should take a look at this and other books he has written to see what appeals.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review