Reylds is a forty-something liquor-store owner on Clear Creek Lake, near Cottonwood, in East Texas. Once he was a banker, but the real estate scandals of the '80s taught him he had trusted the wrong people and brought him within a hair of an indictment. Once he had a wife and twin sons, but she left after the scandal, taking the boys to her daddy's ranch in West Texas. Now Reylds owns Lake Country Liquor Store and lives in a trailer behind the store, with several women passing through his life for intermittent periods. He's satisfied - but a little dissatisfied. Reylds also has a weird family from whom he's mostly estranged. His mother, Edwina, is a bible beater, fond of giving sermonettes to Reylds, her oldest son who has strayed from the church and lived in sin with women. His brother, Perry, is a survivalist with a stash of AK47s and other automatic weapons that he sells illegally from time to time. Perry also teaches government at the local high school, but his job is in peril because he's been teaching his own anti-government views. And Perry has a dark secret hidden in his past. Ray Reylds, Sr., is a retired Ford truck dealer who's bent on inventing a perpetual motion machine and leaves his wife to live as a hermit at the lake and focus on his invention. The palpable tension between the brothers makes this in part a Cain-and-Abel story. Perry has always been the good son, but Reylds learns more than he almost wants to kw about his brother. And though they fight - at least once physically - they remain brothers, with the distance between them balanced by their sense of family loyalty. There is laughter in these pages in wry, witty dialogue and raw self-honesty, and there is suspense in Perry's late-night gun deals, which he conducts on the boat ramp by Reyld's store, without Reyld's kwledge. But there's also a real sense of people with frailties and weaknesses and dreams and hopes, for themselves and for their family. Donley Watt captures small-town East Texas, its attitudes and habits and language, with a masterful sense of place. His rednecks are as real as his Dallas lady and his Austin vegetarian. Reylds and his family draw you into their story until you can't leave and you'll find yourself turning pages rapidly at the end, desperate to kw what happens to them. And whether Reylds will ever truly be happy with his life.
DONLEY WATT has lived in Texas most of his life. He is the author of three books - Can You Get There from Here? - a collection of short stories that won the Steven F. Turner Award from the Texas Institute of Letters for the best first work of fiction in 1994; the novella The Journey of Hector Rabinal, and two novellas titled Haley, Texas 1959. He and his wife, Lynn, an artist, live in San Antonio.