Carmen Amato Review of Back Side of a Blue Moon
April 13, 2022
Review: “Part Music Man, part Grapes of Wrath, beautiful, haunting prose paints a tale you can see as well as if it was on the big screen.”
Times are hard along the Sabine River, and the little East Texas town of Ashland is crumbling under the weight of the Great Depression. Families are broke and hungry. For many, their last meal may well have been their last meal. Families are giving up and leaving town. Everyone knows the fate that awaits the scattered farms. No one can save Ashland. It is as isolated as the back side of a blue moon.
Into town comes Doc Bannister wearing a straw boater and a white suit. He is the miracle man. He has a homemade doodlebug machine that, he says, can find oil and make them all rich. Oil, he swears, lies beneath the blistered farmstead of Eudora Durant. She thinks Doc is a flim flam man. The sheriff believes he is a con artist. Both are convinced that Doc has come to town to swindle every dime he can get before hitting the road again. Ashland knows Doc may be crooked, but he has brought hope to a town that had no hope.
Eudora has everything Doc wants. She is a beautiful woman who owns cheap land. In Ashland, she is known as the scarlet woman. Whispers say she murdered her husband. No one has seen him since the night they heard a shotgun blast on her farm. The town wants oil. Doc wants Eudora. But Eudora is too independent and stubborn to fall for the charms of a silver-tongued charlatan.
She holds the fate of Ashland in her hands. Will she let Doc drill? Is there really oil lying deep beneath her sunbaked land? Can Doc find it? Or is he more interested in finding love than oil? What happens when a man with a checkered past comes face to face with a woman whose past is as mysterious as his?
Review by Carmen Amato:
I’ve been roaming Amazon, looking for historical fiction set in the blue-collar world of the 1920s and ’30s and won the prize when I discovered BACK SIDE OF A BLUE MOON, the first book in Caleb Pirtle’s Boomtown Saga trilogy.
Part Music Man, part Grapes of Wrath, beautiful, haunting prose paints a tale you can see as well as if it was on the big screen.
And what a tale it is!
The Depression and drought are slowly killing Ashland, Texas. The town on the banks of the Sabine River in east Texas is worn out and no one is as worn out as Eudora Durant. Once the town beauty, she’s now married to an abusive husband and stuck on a farm that can no longer sustain them. Her neighbors are selling off and leaving, their lives destroyed.
One night Eudora’s husband goes too far and she defends herself with a shotgun. When he isn’t seen around for some time, the sheriff starts asking questions, as do the townspeople. Eudora claims he took off but suspicion grows.
Good riddance to bad rubbish, as the saying goes. But where is his body? Without it, the sheriff can’t arrest Eudora, no matter what the gossips say.
Meanwhile, Doc Bannister comes to town, one step ahead of the law. He’s Hugh Jackman in the Music Man but instead of promising a boys’ band complete with uniforms and instruments, he’s going to use a homemade “doodlebug” machine to find oil and make everyone in Ashland richer than King Midas.
Doc is one of the best-written characters I’ve come across in quite some time. In his white suit and straw hat, he’s a breath of fresh air blowing hope into the dusty town. He’s a rogue, yet a hard worker. Slippery yet drawn to the concept of stability. He knows just how to convince and manipulate while appearing honest and sincere.
In short order, he convinces everyone to part with their last two nickels to invest in his oil syndicate. Doc starts drilling on Eudora’s land, claiming to “smell” the oil below the surface, as the sheriff prowls around.
The suspense is multi-faceted. Is Doc a total con artist or does he really know what he’s doing? Did Eudora really kill her husband? What is going to happen to everyone who invested?
Perfectly true to time and place, the book veers more toward literary fiction than traditional mystery but it was too good to keep to myself! It’s only available in Kindle format.
Please click HERE to find Back Side of a Blue Moon on Amazon.