Prime Leaf: A Novel of the Kentucky Tobacco Wars

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9781892514820: Prime Leaf: A Novel of the Kentucky Tobacco Wars
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Prime Leaf is the multi-generational drama that pits two brothers against each other in a story that wrestles with what William Faulkner called "the human heart in conflict with itself."
After witnessing his father's murder, young Boyd Converse comes of age amidst family struggles over low prices paid the family by the rapidly domineering tobacco conglomerates. He joins the Dark Tobacco District Planters' Association in their struggle against Duke Trust. The Possum Hunters (later, Night Riders) are born and subsequently ravage the land burning barns and inflicting violence against farmers who refuse to cooperate, Boyd in tow. One night, the Night Riders flog Boyd's brother and a family drama of epic proportion is set in motion: the conflict of a man defined by his violent actions yet pulled by family loyalty.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Wall's first novel, which appears posthumously, is a tale of moral reevaluations set in post-Civil War Kentucky. It opens with a flashback: the murder of eight-year-old Boyd Converse's father. Local vigilantes scoop up the boy and give him a gun to dispatch his father's killer. The justiceAor injusticeAof this act is to echo through the rest of Boyd's life, setting the tone for his relationship with his mother, brother, wife and neighbors. For much of the book, those relationships are all there is to the story : the drama occurs only at the very beginning and the very end. The characters brood on honor and the difference between responsibility to one's friends and one's family; they discuss the importance of reputations; and they occasionally sleep with each other's spouses while contemplating the nature of loyalty. Boyd's conflicting ideals are eventually tested when the Dark Tobacco District Planters' Protective Association, organized to act as a bargaining unit to force tobacco buyers to pay reasonable prices, forms the Night Riders, a group of vigilantes sworn to bully nonmembers into cooperation. While Boyd believes in the association, he grapples with the unsavory aspects of the Night Riders' work. Although outlaw justice is never quite condoned, the tone of the story is noncommittal, suggesting that the Night Riders are still better than nothing. The novel has an unfinished feel to itAperhaps because the manuscript was not fully polished when Wall died. As a story about moral decisions, it leaves a surprising number of them unresolved. (Dec. 8)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

This posthumous first novel is more of a family chronicle than a novel of the Kentucky tobacco wars. Set during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it tells of the hard and often violent lives of the Converse family--particularly the two brothers, Boyd and his younger brother, Guy. The violence begins in the prologue with the murder of Harry Converse, patriarch of the clan, while the brothers are still children. The tobacco wars don't really get under way until well into the second half of the book, when the brothers have matured and married. By this time we have seen time and again Boyd's contradictory attitude concerning loyalty and honor and his flawed judgment. When the tobacco growers form an association to fight the Trust, which has been keeping prices low, Boyd wholeheartedly joins the group--he even joins the Night Riders, a kind of vigilante arm of the tobacco growers' association--while Guy decides to remain independent. Although not exactly on opposite sides, the issue splits the brothers and the results are violence and tragedy. Frank Caso
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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