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A Hanging at Cinder Bottom by Glenn Taylor

The town of Keystone is abuzz with the news of a double hanging in the summer of 1910 – two lovers, a card genius and a hangingmadam of a brothel.

In the years leading up to this, Keystone has become a boom town in southern West Virginia.  The brains behind the town’s success is one Henry Trent, who with his cohorts has connived and bullied for thirty years to have absolute control – over finances, law, and gambling.  As he establishes his grip on Keystone, Trent easily forgets a business promise made to immigrant Al Baach in 1877.

Baach, awash with the potential to make a modest success of himself, finds it ever harder as the years go by.  His business in a once-bustling saloon dwindles and his wife’s boarding house venture does likewise.  The family’s golden hope is his middle son, card shark and trickster extraordinaire Abe, otherwise known as a Keystone Kid, who has been making his name on the poker tables in town.  Al doesn’t quite approve, particularly when he thinks Abe is going in cahoots with Trent.  But deals with Trent always go sour, and Abe’s situation is not the exception.  Strong man Trent prevails over the little guy, yet again.  Or does he?

A Hanging at Cinder Bottom is a sprawling yarn of love, deceit and murder, set during a time when coal was king and fortunes were made for squandering, whether at a gaming table, whisky bottle or a whore’s wink.  The author captures well this transitional period of a little over a hundred years ago, when new technologies were linking the remotest of areas, racial tensions were high, and certain natural and man-made wonders were of a sort to make people swoon with awe and fear.

I won’t give anything anyway, other than the hanging being atypical – and that’s an understatement.  Keep an eye out for those pickled eggs…

(William Hicks, Information Services)



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