A DARK AND HILARIOUS VISION OF THE DOWN AND DIRTY WEST
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“Wit and gusto… Scott Phillips doesn’t really write crime stories. He writes about criminal behaviors—how they originate, how they transform character, how they become part of the cultural norm and, most incisively, how they flourish in certain environments.” —The New York Times
“COTTONWOOD is an adventurous, bawdy, and genre-bending epic. Scott Phillips cements his reputation as a fearless, ambitious writer who never makes a false move.” —George Pelecanos, author of Hard Revolution
“Scott Phillips is dark, dangerous, and important. COTTONWOOD is crime fiction at its best.” —Michael Connelly, author of Lost Light
“Western epic, black comedy and soft porn are cleverly spliced in this genre-bending offering from Phillips (The Walkaway; The Ice Harvest), which relates the experiences of Bill Ogden, sometime farmer, sometime saloon-owner, sometime photographer in 1870s Kansas. Ogden, 27, is a self-taught Greek and Latin scholar and a sexual libertine capable of seducing almost any woman he encounters. Estranged from his wife, he never brags about his peccadilloes, although it seems that his devotion to oral sex sets him apart from rivals and makes him the heart’s desire of the voracious women who seem to be everywhere on the frontier.
“The story, such as it is, centers on the arrival of Marc Leval and his lovely wife, Maggie, in the tiny farm community of Cottonwood. Marc capriciously selects Bill as a partner in his scheme to attract Texas drovers to a railhead, while Maggie plays a less-than-discreet game of spider and fly with Bill, the Kansas Casanova. In the meantime, an outlaw family embarks on a crime spree that eventually pits Bill against Marc and sends Bill and Maggie fleeing. Jumping ahead 20 years, Bill’s story resumes in San Francisco, where he is making his way as a photographer and sexual athlete. He learns that Maggie, from whom he is long separated, has returned to Cottonwood, so he abandons his life in California and returns, bent on rekindling their love affair. Bill’s salaciousness rivals Don Juan’s and he is utterly devoid of scruples, but his deadpan humor and cunning indifference to life’s vicissitudes keep him likable. Lively pacing and artful prose lend polish to Phillips’s cheerfully grotesque chronicle of western antics.”—Publishers Weekly
“In the always interesting, often surprising online January Magazine, Bill Crider talks about the general lack of respect paid to mysteries set in the Old West. Crider… will probably be as delighted as I am with this third book from Scott Phillips, whose first two novels set in 20th century Kansas were bleakly comic affairs connected by a brilliant link of shared history.
“There’s a similar link in COTTONWOOD, but you have to wait for the epilogue to fully appreciate it. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the pleasures of Phillips’ unique and pungent prose, as well as his skill and daring in moving us through a landscape that at first glance might seem to have been well-covered…. However, it’s not Phillips’ thoughtful, exciting plotting but rather his amazing ear for the sad sounds behind the words of his people that make his novels so exceptional.” —Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune
“Frontier Guignol in post-Civil War Kansas and California of the 1870s and ‘80s… [this] droll first-person narrative combines amorality with a genuine, if laid-back, joie de vivre… The blazingly original Phillips writes with a deadpan humor and incisive irony. The story is shaggy, but its unique slant on the Old West is a major achievement.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“At first glance, Phillips’ third effort seems like quite a departure from his previous noirish crime novels, but it quickly becomes apparent that the author’s brand of sly humor and his skilled depictions of nasty human behavior translate well to the historical genre…Romance, intrigue, dueling pistols, and a Charles Willeford feel translated to the frontier–a little something for everyone. —Booklist
“If, in his debut performance, a rookie ballplayer slams the first two pitches into the bleachers, some fans will insist he’s the next Babe Ruth. …Perhaps it’s a good thing that Scott Phillips’ game is crime fiction and not baseball. The Wichita native not only has hit the literary equivalent of three homers in a row with his first three novels, but each one has been a grand slam.
“In COTTONWOOD, Phillips has delivered a historical drama every bit as compelling as his acclaimed The Walkaway and The Ice Harvest. Those first two disquieting works took a sharp scalpel to the notion that denizens of the heartland are somehow less prone to violence, depravity and corruption than their brethren in the big cities.
“His many characters are imaginatively conceived, multi-dimensional and well worth knowing… Like the photographs Ogden takes of lynchings, scalped hunters and slaughtered buffaloes on the prairie, COTTONWOOD opens our imaginations to a long-gone world that’s far more intriguing and frightening than any we could have imagined.” —Gary Dretzka, Chicago Sun-Times
“In a book that is as much history as mystery, Scott Phillips’ COTTONWOOD makes the dirt streets and rough life of the Kansas prairie come alive.” —Kansas City Star
Limited edition (left) published by Dennis McMillan