Blood Harvest Review
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The intermarried DeCostas and the MacKays are competitors in the making and selling of moonshine. When a DeCosta boy and a MacKay girl are caught getting to know each other (with their hands where they shouldn’t be), it leads to a beating, a trial, a lynching, and an unexplained dead body in the woods.

Author Brant Randall got the idea for Blood Harvest—which is set in 1929 Massachusetts—from his nonagenarian Scotch-Irish grandmother, who, upon marrying a Greek immigrant, left her hometown and never returned because of “those dumb clucks.” What she meant was dumb “klux,” meaning the Ku Klux Klan. Ignorant of the Klan’s existence in Massachusetts, Randall set about his research.

The book is divided into several sections, each written from a different character’s point of view. Marshal Lawe, the sheriff, takes his promise to uphold the law seriously. He pretty much tells it like he sees it, and he only wants to solve the crime and keep the peace. Jackie Sue is a young girl with Hollywood aspirations whose idol is Clara Bow. She’s also the floozy who sets the train in motion. Ebeneezer Kauz, an old man with ties in the town, watches the events unfold from the safety of the woods with Darnell, a black man who’s trying to keep off the KKK’s radar, and Lars, a homeless alcoholic. Granny MacKay is the matriarch of the MacKay clan. She’s the only one in her family with a lick of common sense, and she manages to keep her moonshine operation under control. Big Bill Sykes, a big guy with even bigger hypocritical political aspirations, thinks an anti-bigotry campaign will get him into public office. And Eulala Altberger Spout, the long-suffering wife of Jedidiah Spout, the KKK Kleagle, finally takes matters into her own hands.

There’s no romantic, flowing prose here, which is why I loved all of the characters—the good and the bad. Despite the darkness of the tale, Randall lightens the load with his ability to portray his characters as real, simple, rural folk. Each one has a distinct and discrete personality, as well as a tale to tell and a point of view to add to the mix. I felt as though each character was sitting in front of me, telling me his or her version of the story in an unsophisticated, matter-of-fact way.

If I hadn’t known that the story was set in Massachusetts, I probably never would have guessed. I figured that Massachusetts was too uptight and puritanical to have moonshiners and the Klan running around, so I was surprised to learn that, back in the 1920s, Southern Europeans were considered “non-white.” Also, the Klan’s anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic movement was centered in the Northeast—and not the South, as I always believed. They definitely weren’t teaching us that in school.

Well-researched and artfully told, Blood Harvest is based on actual events—and it’s a splendid work of historical fiction. In fact, the author’s note and afterword alone are worth the price of the book.

I just wish we didn’t have to look so hard to find talented writers like Brant Randall. Mr. Randall, please write us another one.

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