Don’t Know Tough

Soho Crime. Mar. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9781641293457. $24.95. M
DEBUT Billy Lowe is the best running back the Denton High School Pirates have seen in years, and he could be their ticket to the coveted Arkansas state football championship. Years of abuse at the hands of Travis Rodney, his mother’s boyfriend, have hardened Billy, and his reaction to anything that frustrates him is violence. The Pirates’ coach, Trent Powers, has his own troubled past. Trent’s own football coach provided him with a path out of abusive foster homes when he was a teenager; now Trent wants to lift Billy from the cycle of poverty and abuse that has plagued the Lowe family. When Travis is found dead, there are many suspects; clues point to Billy, whose volatile temper and violent outbursts are well known, but the truth is darker and more complex.
VERDICT Cranor’s debut is a searing exploration of the toxic heart of Southern high school football culture, including the human price of winning at all costs; think Friday Night Lights with extra darkness. Readers of Daniel Woodrell and Allen Eskens will appreciate the visceral detail in this Ozarks noir.
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