Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hard Twisted

Hard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves
Bloomsbury USA, November, 2012
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781608198559
In May of 1934, outside of Hugo, Oklahoma, a homeless man and his thirteen-year-old daughter are befriended by a charismatic drifter, newly released from the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The drifter, Clint Palmer, lures father and daughter to Texas, where the father, Dillard Garrett, mysteriously disappears, and where his daughter Lucile begins a one-year ordeal as Palmer's captive on a crime spree-culminating in the notorious Greenville, Texas "skeleton murder" trial of 1935.
C. Joseph Greaves weaves a chilling tale of survival and redemption, encompassing iconic landscapes, historic figures, America's last Indian uprising, and one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the Public Enemy era, all rooted in the intensely personal story of a young girl's coming of age in a world as cruel as it is beautiful.

My Thoughts:
Hard Twisted by C. Joseph Greaves is an impressive fictional account of the real people Clint Palmer and Lottie Garrett. It is 1934 when 13 year old Lottie and her father, Dillard, meet Clint, a charming drifter, they both end up moving to Texas with him where Dillard suddenly disappears and Lottie is essentially kidnapped and left to depend on Clint, a psychopathic killer and sexual predator, during a year long ordeal. The narrative is told from Lottie's point of view as she and Clint end up traveling together across the southwest and subsequently covers what may have happened in the John’s Canyon Murder and the “skeleton murder trial” of the Depression Era. Excerpts from a fictional trial are interspersed with Lottie's story.

In the Author's Note and Acknowledgements, Greaves notes: "Hard Twisted, although based upon real people and true events, is entirely a work of fiction. My first exposure to the saga of Clint Palmer and Lottie Garrett came in somewhat dramatic (Location 2770-2773)....That chance discovery began a personal odyssey that would play out in fits and starts over fifteen-odd years, setting me onto the trail of what I would come to regard as one of the great, untold stories of the American West. (Location 2776-2777).
When researching for the book, Greaves notes something that Lottie and her father didn't know: "Clint Palmer was a sexual predator and a career criminal who, when he first encountered young Lottie Garrett in May of 1934, was only four months removed from his latest incarceration, a three-year stint in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, for kidnapping, statutory rape, and violating the Mann Act. (Location 2854-2856)"
While still in manuscript, Hard Twisted was named Best Historical Novel in the Southwest Writers 2010 International Writing Contest, a well deserved honor. Hard Twisted is clearly a very atmospheric novel and the setting plays a role in Lucille's isolation and dependence on Clint. Although the reader knows from the beginning that something is going to go very wrong, the suspense grows as Lucille begins to figure out Clint's true nature while totally dependant upon him. Greaves does a great job with the historical setting and placing Lucille in the period.
Alas, there is nothing new under the sun. While we tend to think people are worse now, there were always those among us who are sociopaths and do not follow societal rules and norms. It is chilling to know that this is based on a true story. I also personally found the fictional trial questioning Lottie as some sort of femme fatale rather depressing. I would hope and pray that we have come a long way beyond blaming a victim. 
Highly Recommended - especially if you enjoy historical fiction set in the Depression.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Bloomsbury and Netgalley for review purposes.


The court: Very well. Does counsel wish to voir dire?
By Mr. Hartwell: Thank you, Your Honor. Isn’t it true that you and Mr. Palmer cohabited together over a period of several months during the years 1934 and 1935?
A: Did what?
Q: Cohabited. Lived under the same roof.
A: Well. There weren’t no roof to speak of. (Proceedings interrupted.)
The Court: Order. Not another peep, I warn you. And the witness will answer counsel’s questions without gratuitous exposition.
By Mr. Hartwell: You lived together as man and wife.
By Mr. Pharr: Objection.
The Court: Sustained.
By Mr. Hartwell: You shared a bed? Or a bedroll?
A: It weren’t never my idea.
Q: But isn’t it true that you held yourselves out to the public as man and wife? (Location 22-28)

Who was that man?
Just a man. He said he knowed you.
He didn’t mean like that. More like my kind is what he meant.
What’s your kind?
Her father stirred the skillet, and paused, and stirred it again. He tapped the spoon on the iron rim. Only the good Lord knows what’s in a man’s heart, Lottie. Happy is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners. He wiped his nose with his wrist. That there’s from Psalms. (Location 60-63)
Lottie paused with her foot on the running board as Palmer held the door. Packin her kit bag, I reckon. We’ll fetch her up in Hugo. He closed the door and circled the truck, clapping dust from his hands, his eyes scanning the highway in both directions. The cab where she waited was spare and tidy and bore the masculine smells of motor oil and leather and old cigarettes. A spider crack stippled the corner of the windscreen. A cowhide valise, like a doctor’s bag, rested on the seat beside her. Palmer clambered in and slammed the door, setting his hat atop the valise and raking his hair with a hand. He looked at her and smiled. He turned the ignition and pressed the starter and mashed the pedals, working the shift lever up and back until the gears ground and caught and the truck lurched forward, rocking and wheeling southbound onto the empty highway. That weren’t too difficult.
What all’d you tell him?
Oh, let’s see. That I was Clyde Barrow and needin me a gun moll, and that we all was gonna rob us some banks and shoot our way down to Mexico.
She giggled. You’re crazy. (Location 115-122)

I’m sorry, she said, sniffling. I know it’s the Lord’s will. The slap was swift and sharp, the force of it spinning her sideways into the table.
What did I tell you about that nonsense? She raised a hand to her face. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. She turned and ran for the door. He caught her in the front parlor and pulled her backward, kicking and squirming, and he wrestled her onto the sofa. Hold on now. I said stop, dammit, and settle down. His hands gripped her wrists, straitjacketing her in his lap.
I hate you!
You listen to me for one second. Just listen. She struggled again, and then was still. I done fed you, and I drove you all the way down here so’s you could have a little fun for yourself, and all I ast in return was one little thing. All I ast was for you to quit your mealymouthed holy- rollin for one goddamn day. Now is that so much? Huh? Is it? He leaned and tried to turn her, but she wouldn’t turn. Come on, Lucile. Where’s that other cheek I keep hearin about? (Location 234-242)
When I was a kid, he told her, I couldn’t wait to get quit of this place. I run away, and I come back, and then I run away again. Finally, when I was sixteen, I run away for good. At least I thought I did.
How come?
He shrugged. I don’t know. The old man went and got remarried. I guess I felt like I’d lost my place somehow, and that if I got away and looked somewheres else, I might find it again. Almost like you can’t really be home until you know what else is out there, and then you figure out for yourself that whatever it is, it ain’t really home. Does that make any sense?
What happened?
Your place. Did you ever find it again?
He squatted and plucked a grass stem and held it in his mouth. I don’t know. I don’t know if you ever know a thing such as that. Maybe I did, but I just didn’t realize it. Or maybe I ain’t got there yet. He removed the stem and studied it. Maybe I’ll get there tomorrow, or the day after that. Or maybe I won’t never get there a’tall. Or maybe you’re there right now. He looked up at her face, guileless and pink in the low light of sunset. By God, you may be right. He stood and placed the hat on her head. Maybe I am at that. Palmer backed the sofa onto the porch, and when he went inside again, he returned with four warm bottles of orange Nehi and the last of the bourbon whiskey. He popped the caps on his belt buckle and lined the bottles along the railing, topping them off each in turn with a measure of whiskey. They sat with their boots on the railing and sipped their drinks... (Location 256-268)

Tears were in his eyes by the end, and she at the sight of them reached to wipe his face, and in so doing became the very girl of his story. (Location 1440-1441)

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