The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre
by Jonathan Raab
I have a confession – I don’t enjoy conspiracy theories. I laugh at them outright, in fact. Maybe that’s a bad thing. Maybe that’s what the government wants me to think. And some areas fascinate me, of course – secret societies (for the record, the Illuminati was merely an atheistic organization that was persecuted by the church), Satanic cults, and the occasional alien abduction all pique my interest. But, for the most part, I tend to shy away from these kinds of stories, preferring either grander or more personal explorations of the Weird.
Lest I forget the potency of some of these conspiracy theories, I read The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre by Jonathan Raab, courtesy of Muzzleland Press. I admit I was initially skeptical, but as soon as I had finished the first chapter I tossed these doubts to the wind. Massacre is an insanely fun journey through all sorts of conspiracy tropes, but it’s written like a more traditionally (forgive the expression) “serious” novel, a Ballingrudian mixture of pulpy adventure and literary formality.
Larry “Bucky” Green – a known moonshiner – needs to get arrested, but it seems like the FBI is overcompensating. Namely that the FBI is even involved, as well as the SWAT team. Unfortunately, it seems that this was not overcompensation but underestimation, and things go south quickly. Green escapes with a particularly sinister agenda – and a particularly nasty batch of moonshine.
Under the influence of this moonshine, one becomes cannibalistic and violent, turning on one’s fellows with the ferocity of a wild animal (Raab is careful to pull back the curtain slowly on this). As weirdness rapidly escalates in the lonely hills of Cattaraugus County, New York, a small band of heroes attempts to fight back against God knows what – a group including Sergeant Abraham Richards (really the book’s protagonist) and the quirky Sheriff Cecil Kotto, who hosts a late-night radio show exploring the very forces that threaten his town.
Muzzleland Press (did not publish this particular book, but since it is managed by Raab I connect the two easily) is going some great work in the horror/Weird field, and this book is no exception. It’s a delicate and delightful romp through every trope and weird legend imaginable – but, under the restraint and control of Raab’s beautiful prose, it seems fresh, original, and (above all) well-handled. It’s hard to say something like that for a book like this, but I can say it without certainty – this is a well-crafted book.
In fact, I’d consider it to be the Forrest Gump of horror – well, maybe not of horror, but this particular conspiracy-themed subgenre of horror, termed by Raab “high strange”. While Forrest Gump was an exploration of American culture through the mid-to-late 20th century, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre explores all (and I mean all) of the odd socio-political fears (i.e., the government turning against you, secret societies of dubious figures puppeteering behind the scenes) some people possess, as well as more traditional Lovecraftian horrors. It’s the Phillip K. Dick of high strange, an unusual, under-the-radar book of considerable quality.
Never before have I seen something like this attempted, and it’s hard to imagine we’ll see something like it again.
Although the above statement might seem like an exaggeration, it is true.
This, of course, should convince you to buy The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre as soon as you can. One small disclaimer – something in the book’s printing must attract insects, for bugs seemed to swarm about me whenever I read it. In fact, just today, when I was looking back to certain passages, a rather large wasp-like pest (though it seemed to have traits of…well, I suppose, a lizard) stung me on the back of the neck. Oh, don’t worry, it didn’t hurt – it almost felt pleasant, and there seems to be no wound. But still, it gave me a lingering headache for a while…hm. So tired.
It’s actually giving me a headache just th…thinking about how…whuh…what’s happ…ugh…dv’iv lfg rm gsv srooh, mviwh. Blfi ullorhs tlevimnvmg nzb gib gl wvgvi fh uli z dsrov hl gsvb xzm fgrorav blfi nvzgb ulinh uli gsvri uizmpob fmvgsrxzo vckvirnvmgh, yfg gsvb’oo mvevi tvg irw lu fh. Zmw lmxv dv’iv lfg…
…yikes. Don’t know what THAT was about. Anyway, you can (and should) order The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre here (on Amazon), or here from Muzzleland Press. Jeez, I hope that last stretch didn’t freak anybody out. I can’t help but thinking that there’s more weird stuff hidden in the review…