Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24.00, 193 pages, ISBN 978-0-374-53423-3
There’s a newer genre of hard-boiled crime fiction known as southern noir or country noir that is fast becoming one of my favorites. It’s full of fresh new talent with some of the hottest writing and the most unique voices and characters to come along, and this weeks MBR No. 180 is just such a one.
Young God, by Katherine Faw Morris is a novel that comes at the reader full-throttle from the very first sentence on the first page. “NIKKI IS ALL TO HELL.” Moments later she jumps from a seventy-five foot cliff into the waters of a turgid yellow river and the novel is off and running. Thirteen year old Nikki Hawkins is bound and determined to keep the local drug trade under her family’s control. She’s never going to let her deadbeat relatives decide her future, and she’ll use any tool she can to shape her future. Vowing she’ll never be a victim, not letting isolation or ignorance stand in her way, she learns to manipulate her environment in order to have her way . . . and she’s a scary fast learner who inherited all the family criminal traits, never hesitating to use the brute force woven into her DNA.
With prose as slick and sharp as a double-edged razor-blade, Morris tells Nikki’s story with an economy of words, creating a fast moving, gritty and brutally honest tale of southern noir. This novel is breathtakingly short, but makes up with intensity what it lacks in length. It grabs your attention and never lets go.