Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman

The Winter Family

by Clifford Jackman

Tracing a group of ruthless outlaws from its genesis during the American Civil War all the way to a final bloody stand in the Oklahoma territories, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir that reads like a full-on assault to the senses.

          Spanning the better part of three decades, The Winter Family traverses America's harsh, untamed terrain, both serving and opposing the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens, the Winter Family includes the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the impassive ex-slave Fred Johnson, and the dangerous child prodigy Lukas Shakespeare But at the malevolent center of this ultraviolent storm is their cold, hardened leader, Augustus Winter—a man with an almost pathological resistance to the rules of society and a preternatural gift for butchery.
     From their service as political thugs in a brutal Chicago election to their work as bounty hunters in the deserts of Arizona, there's a hypnotic logic to Winter's grim borderland morality that plays out, time and again, in ruthless carnage.
     With its haunting, hard-edged style, The Winter Family is a feverishly paced meditation on human nature and the dark contradictions of progress.
*I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
This is the kind of book that all other books should aspire to be.  It is dark and gritty and full of emotional complexity.  It is full of bad people who do terrible things and have terrible things done to them.  It's about war and brutality, and how people can believe themselves to be good and righteous and yet do horrendous things because they believe in their 'goodness' so much that they can't look past it.  It is, in a word, brilliant.
"The world's a hard fucking place…A little hard to get by with just please."
More than anything, The Winter Family is a book about humanity. 
"People don't even really make this thing; it's this thing that makes people.  It's as natural as a dream.  It's meaner than me, Bill.  And it's never going to die."
Augustus Winter, the leader of the Winter Family, is a brutal killer with a twisted sense of justice.  He sees the world as it is, a bloody mess of hate and greed where men prey on the weak.  Where 'good' men are allowed to get away with their crimes because they conform to the new laws of society.  A society that is as corrupt and greedy as its people.
"But then what's justice? It's men forcing themselves on the world.  You see?  I couldn't break the rules and escape.  For their rules to be real they have to spread over every inch of the earth.  There can't ever be one free space."
The west is slowly becoming more developed, the Native Americans are being killed for their land or forced into reservations, and the wild places of the land are disappearing.  The Winter Family is becoming a relic of the past.
"I got news for you.  The war was civilization.  That was it!  You ain't fighting civilization, Winter!  There's no civilization out here for you to fight.  But it's coming.  And it's a whole lot bigger and meaner than you, friend.  And it's not going to have no use for you when it gets here."
There are no heroes, no pure souls.  Just blood and death and shifting loyalties.
A solid five stars!  I'd recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind having a bloody good time.

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