Southern Scribe
   our culture of storytelling

 

Fiction Review 

Bloodlines of Tyranny
by Dan Dane
1stBooks, 2001
ISBN:0-75962-896-3

 

I live and work in Arkansas, as well as both sides of my family coming from that state.  When I read a book about Arkansas, I want it to not just use the names of places in the area; I want it to feel real to me.  This book does that.

Beginning in the forties, the author, Dan Dane, sets out to put the Delta area into perspective for the reader who may not be accustomed to its unique characters and traditions.  Reader beware!  Traditions are not always a good thing in the Delta!  In a place where land is everything and people are only looked at as a source of cheap labor, life is tough.  Especially hard hit are the poor blacks and whites stuck in the backcountry working on the flatlands of Arkansas.

Growing up, I remember traveling to my grandmother’s house up by the Missouri boothill and seeing the terrible shanties and shacks by the roadside.  Mexican workers and blacks tilled the ground alongside whites that never graced a college campus or were invited to fancy parties.  Mr. Dane forces me to recall that memory.

His first tale starts off with a devastating tale of a racist white-trash plantation owner, “One-Eye” Gibson, who cheats his black laborers by keeping them in debt to the plantation store by lying about their debts.  He also has a particularly ugly relationship with his farm manager’s wife, after the manager mysteriously disappears from the scene. This first tale is capped off with a legal battle and final challenge from the blacks that he has browbeaten (and literally beaten), and who have been caught like deer in the headlights for years. 

The next section of the book deals with the offspring of those plantation workers who are still struggling.  Only now, there are no big plantation bosses – just corrupt politicians, both white and black who victimize them.  

Now, one would think that this might be a story about the poor, mistreated masses yearning to be free, and that a slanted version of good versus evil might exist within this story.  It doesn’t.  I was pleasantly surprised by Mr. Dane’s rendering of the clash between the elite and the miserable.  He offers no excuses for characters that deserve none, no matter that they are poor.  Neither, however does he excuse the powers that manipulate those unfortunates for their own purposes.  It is a tale, straightforwardly told and profound in its simplicity. 

For those who don’t know, a part of Arkansas has become the crank capital of the country, an enterprise engaged in even today, although many counties are covered in shopping malls, upscale housing developments and business zones.  This reality brings into focus the relevance of “Bloodlines.”

I recommend the book highly – both for the personal stories and the intricate legal manipulations that are portrayed.  It may be a portent of our future American legal system, and not just in the South either.

 

Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews  

© 2001 Southern Scribe Reviews, All Rights Reserved