Excerpt from Black River by S.M. Hulse, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Black River

A Novel

by S.M. Hulse

Black River by S.M. Hulse X
Black River by S.M. Hulse
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 240 pages

    Jan 2016, 240 pages


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Print Excerpt

So there it was. Bobby Williams, getting another chance. Wes waited for shock, disbelief, but he'd kept a tally of the months and years going in his head, and he knew the math was right. He wasn't naïve. Money played a role in parole decisions, and space, and manpower, and politics. All sorts of things that had nothing to do with justice. He could accept that. What made him angriest, then, wasn't anything to do with the DOC or the state or the parole board, but the fact that Williams's name still brought with it the memory of the sloppy crunch of breaking bone, that it still sent Wes's gut into spasm and set his heart racing. That the mere memory of the man still brought forth these symptoms of fear.

He heard the grind of gravel and looked up. Arthur Farmer - once Wes's friend and neighbor, widower to Claire's sister - was only a few yards away, scuffing his boot heels in the driveway so Wes would hear him coming. His horse stood on the other side of the property fenceline, stock-still, its reins dropped to the ground. Farmer stopped when he was still a little farther away than most folks would've come. He nodded. Knew better than to offer his hand. "Wesley."

He looked older, of course - Wes so plainly saw age on everyone but himself - but in no way frail. Be like an ox till the day he died. A wide white mustache hid his upper lip, and a dusty bone-colored felt hat covered what had to be a balding head. Farmer was almost seventy now, and his blue eyes were rheumy and seemed to have faded in the years since Wes had last seen him, like paint exposed to years of sun and wind and snow. Looked right at you, so damned sincere.

Wes stood, took one step down from the porch. "Arthur."

"I'm so sorry about Claire."

Wes didn't do well with sympathy. Never had. There would be cards piling up back at home, well-meaning but trite condolences, and he'd toss them all unopened. "Well." He took another step down to the gravel, rocked a stone against the sole of his boot. "Known for a long time she might not make it."

Farmer looked sideways, like Wes had done something it wasn't polite to stare at. "Shame a lady like her should have to go through that."

"Deserved better," Wes agreed. He listened to his own voice critically, made an adjustment as he spoke. He knew how to do that, control tone and note. Music, really.

"Will there be a service?"

"No. Claire didn't really believe in all that."

"I remember."

"She wants to be buried near her sister."

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Excerpted from Black River by S.M. Hulse. Copyright © 2015 by S.M. Hulse. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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