Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: Big Wheat: A Tale of Bindlestiffs and Blood


  • Author:  Richard A. Thompson
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (January 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590588223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590588222


From Amazon:

The summer of 1919 is over, and on the high prairie, a small army of men, women, and machines moves across the land, bringing in the wheat harvest.  Custom threshers, steam engineers, bindlestiffs, cooks, camp followers, and hobos join the tide.  Prosperous farmers proudly proclaim “Rain follows the plow,” meaning that the bounty of the land will never be exhausted.  Everywhere, people gleefully embrace the gospels of progress and greed.  The threshing season is on.

But there is also an evil upon the land.  A killer who calls himself the Windmill Man believes he has a holy calling to water the newly plucked earth with blood. For him, the moving harvest is a target-rich environment, an endless supply of ready victims.  He has been killing for years now and intends to kill for many more.  Who could stop him? Nobody even knew he existed.  Until now.

A young man named Charlie Krueger also follows the harvest.  Jilted by his childhood sweetheart and estranged from his drunkard father, he hopes to find a new life as a steam engineer.  But in a newly harvested field in the nearly black Dakota night, he has come upon a strange man digging a grave.  And in that moment, he has become the only person who can stop the evil, if he lives long enough. For the killer knows his name and his wanderings, and he, too, is now a target. When next they meet, one of them will have to die.

My Review:

I was provided an ebook galley by Net Galley for the purpose of this review.

Excellent writing that captures your interest right from the start.  Fascinating characters to keep the plot rolling along.  It is a love story to an era that has been left behind in time and is lost from the memories of most.  An era where young men could hit the road and make an honest living in their search of a new life without being considered homeless or drifters.  It was a time when greed allowed men to farm a single crop and not think about the consequences that will soon rear its ugly head during the Depression.  A time when threshing parties were the highlight of the year when farmers actually got to visit with their neighbors. This is the world of the American Prairies in 1919. 

Charlie Krueger, his life previously filled with disappointment, unrequited love and family anguish, sets out to find work.  The Windmill Man, whose mindset is biblical in that he believes that blood sacrifices are required for good harvests.  It is the chance almost meeting of the two in the beginning of the novel that sets the stage for the story. Many of the mechanical details are right over my head but my lack of mechanical understanding does not take away from the story.  It is a lush story that allows the reader to feel the rural setting. 

Highly recommend this wonderful historical novel as both a great mystery and an ode to a lost period of Americana. 

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