Signed Editions William Heffernan Beulah Hill

ISBN 13: 9780684862262

Beulah Hill

3.48 avg rating
( 48 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780684862262: Beulah Hill

A novel of rare literary distinction, an erotic thriller combined with a true mystery, and a look back at a little-known part of the American societal patchwork -- Beulah Hill, by bestselling author William Heffernan, is a brilliant and deeply original work of fiction.

Set in the 1930s, the story follows the investigation of a racially motivated murder in a rural Vermont town and the shocking ramifications it has on that backwoods community, which had once served as a stopping place for runaway slaves. Having made new lives for themselves there, many of these former slaves had married interracially. As a result, over several generations, the progeny of what were originally black families became what was known as "bleached" and were absorbed by the white community. Still, they were not accepted by all, and not all the blacks joined in interracial unions.

The result was an atmosphere of tension and distrust that -- as so vividly rendered in this novel -- occasionally exploded in acts of violence...and even murder.

Played out against this vivid backdrop, at a time when the Great Depression had created an atmosphere of fear and Adolf Hitler was just beginning his reign in Germany, Beulah Hill tells the story of a white man who was murdered in an almost ritualistic manner on land owned by the only remaining black family in that small town. Heading the investigation is a young constable who is himself a deeply conflicted member of the "bleached" underclass and who is intimately involved with the proud and headstrong black woman at the center of the killing.

Depicting larger-than-life characters, including a black patriarch who rules his farm on Beulah Hill with an iron fist, Heffernan paints a startlingly authentic portrait of a town caught in the grip of seething prejudice, forbidden eroticism, and hard times.

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Review:

William Heffernan, a solid craftsman when it comes to the thriller genre (Red Angel, The Dinosaur Club), changes pace with this thoughtful, beautifully detailed novel about race relations in Depression-era Vermont. Beulah Hill is better known as Nigger Hill, and its patriarch, Jehiel Flood, is a proud black farmer whose daughter Elizabeth, the local schoolteacher, has been loved since childhood by Samuel Bradley, now constable of Jerusalem's Landing. When the murdered body of Royal Firman turns up on Nigger Hill, Samuel is called to investigate. He may look white, but the victim's family and friends still taunt him with the epithet that denotes the result of three generations of miscegenation; "bleached" he may be, but according to Vermont law Samuel is as white as the Firmans, and tracking the killer of a white man on property owned by the last black family in the town is an uphill battle. Heffernan limns Samuel's inner conflicts with the same hard- edged clarity he brings to his portrayal of the icy landscape of Vermont in winter as his protagonist grapples with a truth he cannot bear to bring to light. This moody meditation on a little-known piece of history is hardly a thriller, but that shouldn't deter Heffernan's regular readers from discovering what else he can do besides spin a well-paced yarn: tell a small story with style, grace, and a decidedly literary talent. --Jane Adams

About the Author:

William Heffernan, a 3-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, is the author of fifteen novels, including such bestsellers as The Corsican, The Dinosaur Club (a New York Times bestseller), Tarnished Blue (Edgar Award winner), Cityside, and Beulah Hill. He lives in Vermont with his wife and three sons.

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