There are parts of the US that are no more real to me than Narnia or Middle Earth. Kentucky is one of them. I’ve never been there and the few fictional accounts I’ve read come mostly from Urban Fantasy. I don’t think I can take Jane Yellowrock as a reliable source.
So I decided to riffle through my TBR pile and see what books I had that are set in Kentucky. I came up with one fairly recent thriller and one novel that recently turned fifty which is better known for the film it became. I don’t know if either of them will put me in touch with Kentucky but I’m hoping that they’ll both have a strong sense of place.
‘The Killing Hills‘ by Chris Offutt (2021)
Last year, I was seeing this novel everywhere. I could have ignored the hype but I fell in love with the cover, especially the way that the pickup stands out like blood in snow.
I haven’t read anything else by Chris Offutt but ‘The Killing Hills’ isn’t his first rodeo so I’m hoping I’m putting myself in good hands.
What I’d like is a thriller that feels grounded in a place and its history and which is populated by people I can believe in. Let’s see how that works out.
‘First Blood‘ by David Morrell (1972)
I went to see the movie ‘First Blood’ at the cinema in 1982. It wasn’t one of my favourite movies of the year but it was a memorable one. ‘Bladerunner’, ‘ET’, ‘Gandhi’, ‘Diner’, ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ and even ‘Conan The Barbarian’ all ranked ahead of it for me that year.
What made the movie stand out was the combination of a fairly hard-hitting, action-packed movie with Sylvester Stallone’s painfully plodding acting. He handled the action stuff well but he mangled the delivery of the final scene, making it almost comic when he says:
‘I want, what they want, and every other guy who came over here and spilled his guts and gave everything he had, wants! For our country to love us as much as we love it! That’s what I want!
Mine was clearly a minority view. The movie grossed $125m in cinemas worldwide and is still being watched forty years later.
Anyway, I’ve decided to drop back to the original book, now fifty years old and see what the story is like without Stallone in it.