Only Son 

Lafie Crum



     When Bill unexpectedly loses his job, his simple rural life is shattered, and he has no way of foreseeing the terrible events that have been set into motion for his wife, his child, and him.

    When Bill unexpectedly loses his job, his simple, ideal life is shattered, and he has no way of foreseeing the terrible chain of events that have been set into motion, a series of events that will lead him from the Kentucky mountains he calls home to find work in a Midwestern city, a series of events that will forever wreck the world he knows and ruin the lives of everyone he loves. This is a story of loss and grief in a transient and impermanent world and of the redemption and permanence home and family can offer.

     “Crum reveals the beating heart of this place he knows so well in this haunting debut novel.  Only Son marks the arrival of a wonderful new voice in Appalachian literature.”

                —Silas House

ISBN: 9781604890136 Trade paper: $15.95        Sale $8.00

ISBN: 9781604890129 Library binding: $26         Sale $13.00

194 pages

About the Author: 

Lafie Crum grew up in the Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky. He is the author of River of Words, a book of criticism about Kentucky author James Still, and With Pen in Hand, a writing textbook. Lafie is Academic Dean at Alice Lloyd College in Pippa Passes, KY. This is his first novel.

 Excerpt From the Book:


            The early crowd started to file in, mostly regulars, old men who drink too much and have nothing else to do, nowhere else to go. There were no women yet. If women came it would be late before they’d show. The Wooden Nickel just wasn’t the kind of bar a woman would come to.

            A jukebox stood in the corner, one of those old ones you don’t see much of anymore, and it played some decade-old country song about trucking and lost love. In a corner a couple of strangers shot pool and drank shots of bourbon. One of them looked sort of familiar, a guy who’d been a few years ahead of me in school, one of those guys who goes off to work and stays away and now only comes back to visit. When he spoke I could hear the Ohio in voice.

            “Sorry,” Tommy said from the stool beside me. It was the first word he’d said since we’d gotten there. Tommy was a skinny man twenty years my senior, and he was the best carpenter I’d ever seen. He’d taught me the trade just as he had learned it from Doc. Though he never said much, I could tell how much he hated that I’d been laid off. 

            “Maybe things will pick up,” Ron said. There was doubt in his voice. Ron was closer to my age. “That’s the way this business goes. One week you eat the chicken and the next you eat the feathers.”

            Tommy peeled a twenty off the roll of bills in his pocket and dropped it onto the counter. He stood and offered his hand. It was calloused and as rough as a brick. He paused a few seconds as if there was something he should say, but he only nodded and headed toward the door.

            Ron stood and shook my hand. “Drink you some beer tonight. It’ll make you feel better. Besides, it ain’t like you got to work tomorrow.” He grinned and followed Tommy outside, and his unsteady gait told me he was more than a little drunk already.

            The bar was cool and dark after staying out in the heat and sun for so long, and it was nice to sit there and watch a baseball game on TV. I was thirsty, and the beer was cold, served in thick frozen mugs that would frost when you’d touch them. There were a dozen or so people in the bar now, men I had seen around town or had known growing up, familiar faces I couldn’t put names to, and they were scattered about in twos or threes, playing cards at the tables or telling jokes at the bar. One of the strangers at the pool table got a little loud and I turned to watch him.

            “You can’t make it without scratching,” the familiar-looking guy stood with his arms held over his head as if he spoke to everyone in the bar. He wavered a little, and now that he was drunk you could hear a little more of the old Kentucky part of his voice underneath the Ohio.

            “Put your money where your mouth is,” his friend said. You could tell from his voice he had spent his whole life up north.

            “I’ll buy you a beer if you make that shot without scratching.” The familiar-looking guy was shouting now, “I’ll buy everybody in here a beer if you can make that shot without scratching.”

            The men playing cards in the back stopped their game and came forward to watch the bet. The guy leaned over and fanned his fingers on the table. You could tell from the unsteady way he bridged the cue he was no pool player. He worked the stick back and forth between his fingers and jabbed at the cue ball. He missed the shot bad, the cue ball banking off the rail and scattering the balls across the table.

            “I told you you couldn’t make it,” the familiar-looking guy said, speaking more to the crowd gathered around than to his friend.

            “No, you bet I’d scratch.”

            “I bet you you couldn’t make the shot without scratching. You missed the shot.”

            “I didn’t scratch either.”

            An old man spoke up from the bar, “Do I get my free beer or not?”

            A roar of laughter swept through the room.

            “Set everybody up, barkeep,” the familiar-looking guy yelled. Another wave of cheers and laughter rose up. I could hardly keep from smiling too.