from The Historical Novels Review, May 2011 

 THE BIG THICKET

Jerry Craven, Slough Press, 2010, $15.95, pb, 236pp, 9780982734230


This novel is set in East Texas in the late 1870s. The story focuses on the relationships between whites and blacks living side by side after the American Civil War. Tim Coke, a young white man, along with his friend Lucius Simmons, a former slave, are caught up in this violent era and the culture of the Big Thicket region. Both Lucius and Tim kill two white men who attempted to rape a young white girl. They dispose of the bodies and keep the killings secret from their families. Eventually, a young black man is blamed for the killings and is dragged to death by relatives of the missing white men. Both Tim and Lucius must decide how to deal with the situation in this racially charged area of the South. 
     The author, Jerry Craven, lives in the Big Thicket of East Texas, so he writes about a part of America with which he is familiar. The descriptive settings put the reader in the story, while the characters appear real and well drawn out. I became absorbed in the twisting plots and subplots – the crimes committed with little justice for the blacks, interracial relations that were not condoned by the white majority, and the rural poverty of the characters while still enjoying weekend celebrations of life.
     A serious novel for readers who enjoy stories of hope and passion; love and friendship; hate and injustice. Highly recommended.
            Jeff Westerhoff

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