Chris Helvey


Synopsis: Coal mining, hunting squirrels, and drinking liquor are enough for Eddie Burke. Then he meets Turp Lawson and nothing is ever the same.

Publication December 30


Trade Paper, ISBN 978-1-60489-196-6    $9.95

Hardcover, ISBN 978-1-60489-197-3    $16.95

120  Pages

About the Author:  Chris Helvey’s poems and short stories have been published in numerous reviews and journals. He is also the author of On The Boulevard, Purple Adobe, Whose Name I Did Not Know, and Claw Hammer. He currently serves as Editor and Publisher of Trajectory Journal and as an editor for Best New Writing. He lives and writes with his wife Gina in Frankfort, Kentucky.





 Excerpt from the Book:

THE WHOLE SKY WAS spider-webbed with red and

gold when we drug our tired bodies out of the mouth of

Black John Mine No. 3. At least all the sky a man could

see. On the morning side of that mountain it was already

going dark. Off to the west, the sun was sliding down

the curve of the earth. A line of clouds hung low on the

horizon, and when the sun dropped behind them they

went as purple as wild grapes.

I walked out that evening with J.D. Purvis and Lonnie

Crawford. All week it had been warm for November,

but as the sun began to fade the air grew cooler. A light

breeze had sprung up since we’d gone in and I shivered

and wished for my jacket.


By the time we climbed the little rise and leveled out

on Croley Ridge we were walking through the last patch

of sunlight and I was starting to sweat under my clothes.

The walnut trees had all gone bare, and you could see

nuts hanging like Christmas ornaments with the color

baked out of them. Gum trees were splashes of red and

gold all mixed together and a few of the sugar maples

that grew in the shelter of the limestone were still scarlet.

The leaves on the big oaks had gone bronze and started

to fall and when you walked through them the fallen

leaves made a swishing sound that made me remember

when I was a kid and my brothers and I would rake

leaves for Widow Grogan and old man Thomas and Miss

Martha Vanhoose who gave piano lessons and never had



We’d spend all of one Saturday pushing leaves into

the biggest pile in Buhlan County. Just afore dusk, my

brother Ancil, who was the oldest, would bum a match

off Mr. Thomas who was always home on account of his

leg which had gotten mangled in the Benham Mine accident back in ’37. Once Ancil had the match, all of us

boys would gather round and watch him light a dry patch

of leaves and blow gentle on the fire until the whole pile

caught and you could see flames all the way to Guthrie.


Ancil was gone now. Run over by a coal train when

his old Ford stalled on the tracks and he’d fiddled too

long with the ignition. Fact was, all my brothers was

gone. At least they’d had left out of Buhlan County and I

didn’t know where any of them were, except for Johnny,

who was in the state pen down at Eddyville for killing

the youngest Colegrove boy outside a tavern down in

Richmond. None of us Burke boys had much of a head

for liquor. Some got to wanting to fight and others took

on a crying jag. Whiskey or beer, didn’t matter much to

me. Both got me all worked up for a woman.