Skip to main content

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith

In Blackwood, Michael Farris Smith takes us down a creepy, kudzu-covered trail where a vicious predator prowls, and sometimes the truth seems better unseen.

The best times in Red Bluff, Mississippi, are long gone. Vacant and crumbling, the town’s offer of free housing fails to attract anyone, except for Colburn, a sculptor and drifter who lived in Red Bluff long ago.

As a child, Colburn experienced the horrific trauma of witnessing his father’s death. But as the story unfolds, the events leading to his father’s demise deliver a series of gut punches that are nearly impossible to shake off.

Smith weaves the fatalistic tale with sensitivity but leaves us unsettled. As we read Colburn’s painful ruminations, echoed by a rotting house smothered in kudzu, we learn of his despair. His loneliness. His unshakeable fear that reminds him he’s alive.

Psychic threads connect the characters like tangled vines. Colburn and the boy pay retribution to their miserable fathers. Savage human and animal killers take innocent lives. Everyone in Red Bluff aches.

A desperate story like Blackwood needs skilled prose, and fortunately, Smith delivers. Measured and poetic, he emerges as a master of the southern gothic, a superb storyteller eliciting tears and compassion.

Blackwood will haunt me for a long time.


Popular posts from this blog

Love Lifted Me | #365 Prompts

LOVE LIFTED ME We’d practiced "Love Lifted Me" in GAs until it sounded reasonably good. Well, Anna sounded good. I suppose it was expected since she was the preacher’s daughter and honestly blessed with an angelic voice. She carried any number the trio performed. This time, however, it was a quartet. The choir director had reluctantly invited me to join—I guess she felt it was her moral duty to include me while knowing I couldn't sing.   But I would do for a Sunday night service when the pews were mostly empty. I wasn’t nervous really, even though I’d never sang in front of an audience. And I had forgotten about my bouts of hysteria. Now, these little fits weren’t debilitating. Just brief and inappropriate responses to stressful situations. Like when my dad fell from the ladder and caught his foot in the rung. He was swinging by his sickled ankle, and all I could do was laugh. He grew angry, livid even, screaming at me to help, but I rolled on the ground in hilarious conv

Out of the Blue

Out of the blue and into the black describes the descent of a wildly dysfunctional family in this rambling, nihilistic film by Dennis Hopper. Don, a degenerate convict, pulses with Hopper’s dark charisma, devouring everything in his path. Kathy, his wife, numbs herself from the chaos with drugs and sex, leaving Cebe, their daughter, on her own to deal with the fallout. It doesn’t end well. Cebe, played by Linda Manz, seems to sneer at the brutal cards handed to her, but under that tough facade is a bruised child who craves the comfort and love that’s been absent in her life. Tragically, her signature walk, that strident march, leads her nowhere.


  WE BITE We walk the streets at night. Me and the dangerous dog. Staring them down, daring them down, in the crosshairs of a feral gaze. To whistles, catcalls (and just plain cats), we bare wet teeth.  They think it’s fear.  But really, it’s love.