South Carolina, 1932. One man’s whiskey empire is on the verge of collapse following two shots from a 12-gauge.
Late one night at the end of a scorching summer, a phone call rouses Sheriff Furman Chambers out of bed. Two men have been shot dead on Highway 9 in front of the Hillside Inn, a one-time boardinghouse that is now just a front for Larthan Tull’s liquor business. When Sheriff Chambers arrives to investigate, witnesses say a man named Mary Jane Hopewell walked into the tavern, dragged two of Tull’s runners into the street, and laid them out with a shotgun. Sheriff Chambers’s investigation leads him into the Bell village, where Mary Jane’s family lives a quiet, hardscrabble life of working in the cotton mill. While the weary sheriff digs into the mystery and confronts the county’s underground liquor operation, the whiskey baron himself is looking for vengeance. Mary Jane has gotten in the way of his business, and you don’t do that to Larthan Tull and get away with it.
Hailed as a “grand new talent” (Bret Lott) and a “significant new voice in Southern fiction” (Ron Rash), Jon Sealy has written a haunting debut novel. With its unforgettable characters and evocative setting, The Whiskey Baron is a gripping drama about family ties and bad choices, about the folly of power and the limitations of the law.