Monday, February 15, 2010

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Blood Harvest by Brant Randall

"Some say that I am quarrelsome. Others hold that I'm a gossip. Fact is, I'm just interested in the truth, me being sworn to uphold the law. I take the workings of justice serious."

Title: Blood Harvest

Author: Brant Randall
ISBN: 9780979996016
Publisher: Capital Crime Press/2008
Pages: 286/HC

Blood Harvest is a work of fiction although it is based on real facts. In Randalls own words in the introduction:

"This novel grew from an incident related to me by my grandmother when she was in her nineties. She said that after her wedding day she never returned to her hometown. At one point I asked if her parents disliked my grandfather, who I remembered as personable and charming. "It was those dumb clucks." She used this expression only when quite angry. "My brother-in-law didn't think it was right for a white girl to marry a non-white European."

Initially confused, Randall was astounded to discover that his grandmother was referring to the Ku Klux Klan, which was anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement with racial intonations like deep hatred for blacks.

This novel is set in 1929, in a small rural New England community. When MacKay brothers catch their 13 year old precocious cousin, Jackie Sue, with teenager Angus DeCosta behind the bushes, they first beat and strip the boy and then throw him off a bridge into a river. DeCosta's father Nick, arrives in time to rescue his battered son. Like the Mackeys, Nick DeCosta too is a wine grower. He earns a fortune and in a way cuts into the profit of the Mackays. And also the Mackeys youngest daughter had eloped with him 15 years back. All are arrested and a trial follows. Meanwhile, Nick is lynched and burnt alive.

The question is why was he really killed. As a way of revenge or there is some other reason? Who did it? Another body too is found in the forest, its face being totally battered. We get the narration from the voices of the characters, that also includes that of a dog and a crow. Told in dialects, and characters straight out of real life, it draws the reader in. And the hatred is palpable. Despite the grim background, the murder and dark mystery, it has its moment of lightness and wit. The court scenes are hilarious especially with Jackie.

As Randall said, prejudices exists. Everywhere. Including India. Not only for caste, colour, creed, religion but also for power, money and hell lot more. Therefore, Blood Harvest makes a lot of sense. I especially liked the quotations from poetry and prose before the start of each chapter. Those words summarised what was intended in each chapter. Brutallly frank, this novel stays in mind. The title is wholly appropriate too as is the cover. I am checking out other works by Brant Randall and I am also going to look out more about the "Clucks'.


BooksPlease said...

This does sound grim - racial prejudice, hatred and murder. I'm not sure how I could cope with dialect particularly with narration by a dog and a crow! Seriously, it sounds a book to make you think.

Bernadette said...

Wow that sounds a bit darker than I'm looking for right now but might be one to look for later on. I do like books that make me think

Doc Cook said...

Hi Gautami,

Thanks for your review. I think you captured the sense of the book very well.

A sequel to Blood Harvest has been published--TOMMY GUN TANGO. It takes place in Hollywood in 1932--the year that my own family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression.

I think this one is lighter in tone, though still telling a true story about murder in movie studios.

Less dialect and no talking animals this time. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Brant Randall / Bruce Cook

Kerrie said...

Wow! even a comment by the author Gautami! Not a book I've tried yet. Thanks for participating in the meme again