Darkansas

Jarret Middleton. Dzanc, $26.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-945814-29-7

From the get-go, Middleton grabs readers with an eerie dream about a violent death, a portent of things to come in his page-turning debut about a family’s curse. Generations of male Bayne twins are destined to be the catalysts in their fathers’ deaths. Jordan Bayne, a down-on-his-luck country and blues singer ever overshadowed by his famous entertainer father, makes the rounds of seedy clubs and bars in San Antonio before heading to the family home in the Ozarks for the wedding of his twin brother, Malcolm. Unbeknownst to the brothers, they’ve been watched for years by an ancient evil man and his nefarious henchman, who will make sure the boys’ father is killed on Malcolm’s celebratory day. While building up to the upcoming confrontation and underscoring the differences between the two brothers, Middleton takes readers back in time to earlier generations and other patriarchal disasters that caused family schisms, capturing different eras and characters and adding depth to the tale. The story takes a misstep when it gets mystical about the origin of the Bayne family’s affliction, which adds unnecessary confusion. Nonetheless, the book is elevated by Middleton’s prose, especially the rough and textured descriptions of the landscapes and environment. (Aug.)