Mysterious Book Report Hard TwistedHard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves

Bloomsbury, $25.00, 291 pages, ISBN 978-1-60819-855-9

It is an unfortunate truth that the folks who lived through the hard years of the Great Depression are dying off at a rapid pace.  Every day more and more of them, and their hard-won wisdom, are being lost to us.  You know who they are . . . the elderly ones who live as frugally as possible, wasting nothing and saving or putting to use everything from rubber bands to glass jars, grocery sacks to metal coat hangers.  Why do they do it?  I think it’s because they’ve lived through hard times . . . and they’re savvy and smart . . . therefore they take nothing for granted, leave nothing in their control to chance, because they all remember just how hard it was to live through the 1930’s.  They stand in my mind at least, as stark reminders of why we shouldn’t assume that the good times will roll on forever.  There’re ants at every picnic and bad weather in the midst of sunshine, poverty amidst plenty.

As you’ve no doubt guessed by now, the Great Depression is the subject of this week’s MBR No. 91.

Hard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves is historical fiction.  It is one of those super-interesting, thinly-promoted gems of literature which cross my desk only once in a blue moon that are so good they should be required reading in high school English classes.  It is a fictional telling of a real series of events which took place in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Utah during the years 1934-35, and it was named Best Historical Novel in the 2010 Southwest Writers International Writing Contest.  Greaves was also awarded the grand-prize Storyteller Award at the same time, which is significant praise indeed.

Hard Twisted begins in Hugo, Oklahoma in May, 1934 when a man named Clint Palmer, who has just been released from the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas meets a homeless man named Dillard Garrett and his thirteen year-old daughter, named Lucille, who’s known as Lottie.

Dillard Garrett mysteriously disappears and Palmer takes off on a year-long spree with Lottie as his captive.  Their journey ultimately takes them to a remote sheep camp in Utah and culminates back in Greenville, Texas with the chilling “Skeleton Trial” of 1935.  The characters are real and the events are actual.  Greaves describes people and events in vivid, accurate prose that’s as rare and beautiful as the southwestern countryside the action takes place in.  The research is accurate, meticulous and minute in detail.  The reader becomes so engrossed that readers can almost feel red grit dust in their mouth, see and feel the solitude, the terror and the outcome roaring at them like an out of control diesel locomotive.  If you’re curious about the depression, the dust bowl or a heretofore untold western saga, you’ll want to read Hard Twisted. Superlatives aside, this one’s simply outstanding.  It will be enjoyed by all who choose to read it.


John Dwaine McKenna