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Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories by Frank Bill

Frank Bill reads from his book Crimes in Southern Indiana at the Irving Theater in Indianapolis on September 29th, 2011.



A ferocious debut that puts Frank Bill’s southern Indiana on the literary map next to Cormac McCarthy’s eastern Tennessee and Daniel Woodrell’s Missouri Ozarks

Crimes in Southern Indiana is the most blistering, vivid, flat-out fearless debut to plow into American literature in recent years. Frank Bill delivers what is both a wake-up call and a gut punch. Welcome to heartland America circa right about now, when the union jobs and family farms that kept the white on the picket fences have given way to meth labs, backwoods gunrunners, and bare-knuckle brawling.Bill’s people are pressed to the brink—and beyond. There is Scoot McCutchen, whose beloved wife falls terminally ill, leaving him with nothing to live for—which doesn’t quite explain why he brutally murders her and her doctor and flees, or why, after years of running, he decides to turn himself in. In the title story, a man who has devolved from breeding hounds for hunting to training them for dog-fighting crosses paths with a Salvadoran gangbanger tasked with taking over the rural drug trade, but who mostly wants to grow old in peace. As Crimes in Sourthern Indiana unfolds, we witness the unspeakable, yet are compelled to find sympathy for the depraved.

Bill’s southern Indiana is haunted with the deep, authentic sense of place that recalls the best of Southern fiction, but the interconnected stories bristle with the urban energy of a Chuck Palahniuk or a latter-day Nelson Algren and rush with the slam-bang plotting of pulp-noir crime writing à la Jim Thompson. Bill’s prose is gritty yet literary, shocking, and impossible to put down. A dark evocation of the survivalist spirit of the working class, this is a brilliant debut by an important new voice.

“Bill’s ever violent and never dull stories [are] a blend of Midwest Gothic and country pulp . . . [They’re] over the top, but in a good way, in the way that Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs, was over the top. Bill never cheats on the smells and sounds of carnage. He doesn’t spare the kids and the dogs. But he mixes in a dash of dark humor (“The Accident” being the best example), an occasional nod to love and sentiment (“The Penance of Scoot McCutchen”), and he’s adept at holding back, offering reward with a fine twist at story’s end . . . [T]his book delivers.” —The Seattle Times

“The hard- scrabble realism of these 17 stories will bring to mind the Ozark writer Daniel Woodrell and shades of Cormac McCarthy and Dorothy Allison—offering a view of American lives and mores that may as well be from a different planet . . . Rural idyll this is not—but it is as riveting as anything you may read in the near term.” —The Daily Beast (Best Debuts of the Fall list)
“Flowing like awful mud and written in pulpy style, these stories paint a grisly portrait of the author’s homeland. You might want to have your brass knuckles handy when reading.” —Publishers Weekly

“This gritty, violent debut collection begins rather like pulp genre fiction then deepens into something much more significant and powerful. Set in a dilapidated, seedy, nightmare version of southern Indiana, complete with meth labs, dog-fighting rings, and all manner of substance abuse, the stories are connected by recurring characters. The collection opens with vignettes focused mainly on carnage. But as readers go deeper, the stories lengthen, with Bill turning his attention to psychology and character development and bringing the community to life in fascinating ways … Bill’s characters live in a fractured world where there are no good jobs, not much respect for life, and not much hope. It’s a bleak, hard-boiled vision of America.” —Library Journal

“Good Lord, where in the hell did this guy come from? Blasts off like a frigging rocket ship and hits as hard as an ax handle to the side of the head after you’ve eaten a live rattlesnake for breakfast. One of the wildest damn rides you’re ever going to take inside a book.” —Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff

“Frank Bill’s characters all seem to be hurtling at ninety miles an hour down dead end streets, and his recounting of their passage is vivid and unforgettable. Like Barry Hannah on amphetamines, but the voice is undeniably Bill’s own.”—William Gay, author of Provinces of Night

“What can I say about this book? This: planning a summer trip north from Mississippi, these stories caused me to reroute to avoid Southern Indiana. Mr. Bill knows his people well, and writes like they live—on the edge of the edge. Just plain unforgettable fiction.”
—Tom Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
“When you’re composing your hardbitten pantheon—Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain, Patricia Highsmith, Big Jim Thompson, Elmore Leonard—save room for Frank Bill, whose Crimes in Southern Indiana reminded me how thrilling and darkly vital crime fiction used to be and is again.”
—Kyle Minor, author of In the Devil’s Territory

“These stories form the ideal nexus between literary art and pulp fiction: beautifully crafted, compulsively readable, and as addictive as crystal meth.”
—Pinckney Benedict, author of Dogs of God and The Wrecking Yard

“Take the bark of a .45, the growl of a rusted-out muffler, and the banshee howl of a methhead on a three-day bender, and you approximate the voice of Frank Bill, a startlingly talented writer whose stories rise from the same dark lyrical well as those of Daniel Woodrell and Dorothy Allison.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Wilding and Refresh, Refresh

“How can I not love a writer whose work reminds me in a huge way of some of my favorite writers: Lansdale, Woodrell, Willeford, Thompson, and Faulkner? Crimes in Southern Indiana is a brutal, hilarious, honest, unforgettable book, and Frank Bill is the freshest new voice to emerge on the crime fiction scene in recent years.” —Jason Starr, author of The Pack

“Say you’re driving down a country road, midnight, a beer in your lap, and you corner into a two-car head-on collision that’s one of the most horrible things you’ve ever seen, so horrible that you’ve just gotta stop, and then, say, when you’ve gotten out and you’re poking around the body parts trying to figure out what’s what, you turn your head just right and catch the way the moonlight lays glittering over the twisted metal and bloodslick asphalt, and you’re struck breathless by the eerie beauty of it all. That’s what Frank Bill’s writing is like. It’s that stark, that brutal, and just that beautiful.”
—Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike

“Frank Bill does to crime fiction what a rabid pit bull does to his favorite chew toy. You’ll need a neck brace after whipping through these wild, wonderful, whacked-out stories.” —Derek Nikitas, author of Pyres

“Crimes in Southern Indiana brings to light a major American writer of fiction, the prose equivalent of a performance by Warren Oates or a song by Merle Haggard or a photograph by Walker Evans. Tempting though it is to compare him to other writers, the fact is that five years hence every good new fiction writer to come into view will be compared to Frank Bill.” —Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest

“The first time I read a story by Frank Bill it was like watching a redneck opera in another language. No idea what was going on, but I was dying to find out. I wanted more, more, more until I finally learned how to speak ‘Frank Bill.’ He is a completely original voice in the literary arena, and will take on any challengers with his bare hands. I’m continually in awe of the stories he tells and the insane way he tells them.” —Anthony Neil Smith, author of Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’

My Review

The author Frank Bill delivers a lethal injection of literal pulp visceral darkness into your bloodstream. He takes you to hell and back with these characters and stories. Written in the same vein as Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock. The stories are gritty, at times shocking and brutal, vignettes of things that should remain as fiction. Written with short sharp no words wasted, visceral lines of prose. The stories are at times connected with each other as some characters are featured in other stories in different circumstances and other stories are just a fresh stab in the dark.

The praise on the cover is right in stating it as….

Vivid and unforgettable

Ideal nexus between literary art and pulp fiction: beautifully crafted and compulsively readable.

One of the wildest damn rides you’re ever going to take inside a book.


My breakdown of a few stories follow below.

Hill Clan Cross

A lesson on stealing from kin. Never steal from you father and uncles harvest to sell on the side.

These Old Bones

A good for nothing inhuman lump of flesh pimped out his own granddaughter after helping himself to her. She was in their care for looking after and he decide to sell her off for a while for money. The will be blood and justice on the guilty.

The Need

A tale of the gruesome kind a man served for uncle Sam in Afghanistan and turned rouge. He has a passion for the ears of the dead. He literally cuts out the ears of those that he now kills for himself not uncle Sam. In the mountains of Afghan, what he seen done to the farmers and women turned him rogue and killed his own and ever since he’s been killing.

Beautiful Even In Death

A married man in his 40’s been meddling with a cousin on the side and realises he can’t have her to himself any more so he kills her. His son tries to tell his mom that he dad is a murderer and all hell breaks loose, father and son beat each other to a pulp. One comes out alive who is going to be believed?

The Old Mechanic

A veteran of World War Two a wife beater and a bad grandfather. A grandson is forced to be in his company on one occasion. His ma has been telling stories of his evils and badness since stories were told to him. This time though he the Old Mechanic wants to set things straight and do good for his grandson.

“I unable to adjust from what I’d seen and done. Cause once a man takes another mans life it’s the guilt of memory that haunts him and he will forever live in the shadow of the dead.”

Rough Company

All about bad Kin and company. A mother gives birth to a son the father is her step-father. He’s no good and she’s on the run from him and out to make some quick bucks. A insurance scam is the money idea for her, the scam turns out to occurred in the wrong place and injured the wrong kind of man. Death is wanted on those involved from the bedside of the injured man and he hires a a hit man to take them out. In the end when blood is spilled and the deed is done the mothers son is left alive. The boy has a dark past right from conception but now he will have a chance at life at least without bad company.

Crimes In Southern Indiana

You are put amongst nasty characters that deal in Crystal meth, illegals, smuggling, dogfights and you witness dogs die unjustly. There will be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Purchase from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Visit the authors website and HouseofGrit @ http://frankbillshouseofgrit.blogspot.com/

Interview – Frank Bill, part 1 from Keith Rawson on Vimeo.

Interview – Frank Bill, part 2 from Keith Rawson on Vimeo.

Read: Frank Bill’s ‘Crimes in Southern Indiana’  interview by Scott Shoger @nuvo.net

Read: The first three stories – “Hill Clan Cross,” “These Awful Bones” and “All the Awful” (collectively, the Hill Clan Trilogy) – from Crimes in Southern Indiana (via Macmillan)

Read: “The Heartland: Ten Years after 9/11,” a short story published in the online edition of Granta on Sept. 27

Read: “We Brought Tomorrow Until Today Was Gone,” a “work in progress” published on Farrar, Straus and Giroux’s website (with an introduction by Bill’s editor, Sean McDonald

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 12 March 2012

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