Scott Blackburn is about to hit the ground running hard with his debut southern crime novel, It Dies With You. The novel is a gritty portrait of southern sprawl, as a part-time boxer and bouncer Hudson Miller is suddenly called home when his estranged father is murdered in what looks like a botched robbery of his junkyard business. With Leland’s empire consisting of nothing more than a little cash, some trailers he rented, and land that is all but impossible to get rid of because of toxic automobile fluids leaking deep into the topsoil, solving the mystery of who killed his father and for what reason becomes more attractive than continuing his dead-end life. Leland’s ex-wife got nothing, his business partner knows nothing, and a terrifying discovery leads Hudson, Leland’s old partner Charlie, and a local teen Lucy down a rabbit hole of threatening corruption that none of them may survive once they begin to uncover the truth.
Blackburn’s prose is a striking addition to southern crime fiction. He has written a tight novel about the implications of mistakes on small-town life and has been able to approach his subjects in a manner that satisfies both the potboiler fan and the character-driven literary audience. This book flies by, and it isn’t lost on me that there may have been some intentional Twin Peaks references (Leland? Abandoned boxcar?!) and maybe even a drop of my name in there. It is a wonderful book that rides on the crime genre easily but also seems to capture the true dynamic of sprawl, divorce, male relationships, abandonment, trying to find your way on your own, and being unsure what the right choices are, especially when there’s nothing left to lose.
It Dies With You is out on June 7th 2022 from Crooked Lane Books. I am grateful Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley provided the review ARC I received of this gripping novel. Blackburn’s debut promises a shining career with every follow-up, and I look forward to everything that comes next.
Photo from dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons