Summary and book reviews of Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain

by Brian Panowich

Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich X
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2016, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Winner of the 2015 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award

From a remarkable new voice in Southern fiction, a multigenerational saga of crime, family, and vengeance.

Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws.  For generations, the Burroughs clan has made its home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family's criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can.  But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton's office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-destruction.  

In a sweeping narrative spanning decades and told from alternating points of view, the novel brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the mountain and its inhabitants: forbidding, loyal, gritty, and ruthless. A story of family - the lengths men will go to protect it, honor it, or in some cases destroy it - Bull Mountain is an incredibly assured debut that heralds a major new talent in fiction.

1.

"Family," the old man said to no one.

The word hung in a puff of frozen breath, before dissipating into the early morning fog. Riley Burroughs used that word the same way a master carpenter used a hammer. Sometimes he just gave it a gentle tap to nudge one of his kin toward his way of thinking, but sometimes he used it with all the subtlety of a nine-pound sledge.

The old man sat in a wooden rocker, slowly squeaking it back and forth on the worn and buckled pine slats of the cabin's front porch. The cabin was one of several hunting shelters his family had built all over Bull Mountain throughout the years. Rye's Grandfather, Johnson Burroughs, built this one. Rye imagined the elder statesman of the Burroughs clan sitting in that very spot fifty years earlier and wondered if his brow ever got this heavy. He was sure it did.

Rye pulled a pouch of dried tobacco from his coat and rolled a smoke in his lap. Ever since he was a boy, he'd come out here to watch Johnson&#...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel begins with the word "family," and the powerful scenes that follow signal the importance of familial bonds—and rifts—in this novel. Discuss the role of family in the story. To which characters is it most important? Is family defined by blood or by something else?
  2. There are two key female protagonists in the novel: Kate and Marion. What did you think of these two women? What were their most distinctive characteristics? How does each disrupt the balance of the Burroughs family?  
  3. Consider the narrative structure of Bull Mountain, which is told in chapters that alternate between characters and time periods. Why do you think the author chose to tell the story in this way? Did the ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

    BookBrowse Awards
    2015

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The biggest challenge I had with the book was that the time period changed from chapter to chapter, which made it difficult to follow at times. Bull Mountain is an absolute winner; I haven't enjoyed a novel this much in years. Readers who can tolerate violent scenes will find a brilliant story and top-notch writing buried under the gore. Highly recommended.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review (777 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

Media Reviews

The Wall Street Journal
Panowich has crafted a satisfying and smartly constructed book whose time-shifting sequences build suspense even as they parcel out telling revelations. Once events are in full play, there’s no turning back.

The Los Angeles Review of Books
Panowich’s Southern grit is stubborn and gets into every crevice . . . he tears apart the hardened, Southern man so popular in rural noir. Even more, he does so while maintaining that those characters have a moral, human center.

Atlanta Magazine
A brilliant debut novel . . . extraordinary.

The New York Times Book Review
[Brian Panowich] pulls off [a] daunting undertaking with astounding success . . . The storytelling is mesmerizing, with virtually every chapter set in a different timeline and focused on a single character, but the sense of immediacy carries over into each era. And while the violence is shocking in its coldhearted brutality, it’s as aesthetically choreographed as any ballet.

The Huffington Post
[Panowich storms] onto the scene with an epic southern tale that establishes him as a new voice for southern writers. . . . An unabashed literary page-turner, Bull Mountain, takes readers along for a ride full of well timed twists and turns, and the shocking family secret that causes the inevitable climax. . . . one of the best multi-generational family sagas in years.

Kirkus Reviews
Panowich deftly delves into 'something deeper than bone' between fathers and sons, between the land and its people.

Library Journal
[This] book will appeal to readers of Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, and ­Daniel ­Woodrell for the way in which it brings the landscape and culture of rural Appalachia to life.

Booklist
Starred Review. Dazzling...Read and recommend to anyone who follows country noir or savors delicious prose.

Author Blurb Wiley Cash, New York Times-bestselling author of This Dark Road to Mercy
This is a wonderfully rich and evocative debut novel that is steeped in both the history of Appalachia and well aware of the current challenges it faces.

Author Blurb C. J. Box, New York Times­-bestselling author of Endangered
Bull Mountain is a sprawling, gritty, violent, tribal inter-generational crime epic with a deeply rooted sense of place and an gut-punch ending I didn't see coming

Author Blurb Tom Franklin, New York Times - bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Holy cow, what a book! It moves like a bullet. Mr. Panowich knows his mountains, his whiskey, his dope and his meth. And boy, does he know his characters, who are drawn so vividly I can't forget them...First rate, first rate!

Author Blurb John Connolly, New York Times-bestselling author of The Wolf in Winter
The gripping, witty Bull Mountain is not only a fine debut, but a fine mystery novel, period. Panowich may even have carved out his own subgenre of hillbilly noir.  I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.

Author Blurb James Ellroy, author of Perfidia
Bull Mountain is a stone gas and a stone winner!  It's brother-versus-brother in the dope-damned South.  This first novel has it all: moonshine, maryjane and mayhem!  Read this book now – and succumb to a startling new talent.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Bull Mountain
Clayton Burroughs is the only member of his family not involved in its crime network. He instead became the Sheriff. His family had ruled Bull Mountain in Northern Georgia for generations first with moonshine, than marijuana and lastly meth. They are...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

In Bull Mountain, one of the main characters is a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, commonly known as the ATF.

The seal of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives The ATF website states the organization is the oldest tax-collection agency in the United States. It was initially part of the U.S. Treasury and traces its roots back to 1789, when Congress voted to impose a tax on imported spirits to help pay debts left over from the Revolutionary War (at the time, there was no income tax, and so excise taxes such as this one were the primary means of generating funds for the government, and the Treasury Department was responsible for the collection of this revenue). During the Civil War years, Congress also authorized additional taxes on both ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Brian Panowich

If you liked Bull Mountain, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: We Set the Dark on Fire
    We Set the Dark on Fire
    by Tehlor Mejia
    On the island of Medio, a wall separates the wealthy elite from those less fortunate who lack the ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    by Marlon James
    If you are looking for an indulgent, escapist fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf may not be for you. ...
  • Book Jacket: That Time I Loved You
    That Time I Loved You
    by Carianne Leung
    Carrianne Leung was a Toronto Book Award finalist for That Time I Loved You as well as for her debut...
  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Year of the War
    by Susan Meissner

    A little-known story of WWII with great resonance for our times.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    My Lovely Wife
    by Samantha Downing

    Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.