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The Midnight Cool

Cover of The Midnight Cool

The Midnight Cool

The Whiting Award—winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.

A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion—making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.

Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of Leland Hatcher, the richest man in Richfield, Tennessee, and the former owner of The Midnight Cool. The horse would be worth a fortune—if she weren't a verified man-killer who attacks on sight. Charles and Billy are rooted in this muggy town until they can miraculously retrain their recalcitrant mare, and in the shadow of the growing inevitability of war, their bond begins to fray. Falling in love with Catherine—and under the spell of the deceitful, wealthy Leland, the vision of himself he'd like to be—Charles pulls away from the older man.

Despite their growing distance, Billy and Charles find their business thriving when the war in Europe pushes the demand for mules sky-high and the United States enters the fight. But when a trade goes terribly wrong, Charles is forced to reevaluate his allegiance to his country, the moral implications of his lifestyle, his relationship with Catherine, and, ultimately, his mysterious and surprisingly deep connection to Billy.

Populated by spirited, memorable characters, The Midnight Cool is a startlingly profound tale of aspiration, loyalty, and love—and the eternal search for something lasting in a transitory world.

The Whiting Award—winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.

A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion—making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.

Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of Leland Hatcher, the richest man in Richfield, Tennessee, and the former owner of The Midnight Cool. The horse would be worth a fortune—if she weren't a verified man-killer who attacks on sight. Charles and Billy are rooted in this muggy town until they can miraculously retrain their recalcitrant mare, and in the shadow of the growing inevitability of war, their bond begins to fray. Falling in love with Catherine—and under the spell of the deceitful, wealthy Leland, the vision of himself he'd like to be—Charles pulls away from the older man.

Despite their growing distance, Billy and Charles find their business thriving when the war in Europe pushes the demand for mules sky-high and the United States enters the fight. But when a trade goes terribly wrong, Charles is forced to reevaluate his allegiance to his country, the moral implications of his lifestyle, his relationship with Catherine, and, ultimately, his mysterious and surprisingly deep connection to Billy.

Populated by spirited, memorable characters, The Midnight Cool is a startlingly profound tale of aspiration, loyalty, and love—and the eternal search for something lasting in a transitory world.

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About the Author-
  • Lydia Peelle is the author of the novel The Midnight Cool and the story collection Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing, which received an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She received her MFA from the University of Virginia and has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Ucross, Yaddo, and Ragdale. Peelle is a recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an O. Henry Prize, the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honor, and a Whiting Award, as well as the Anahid Award for Emerging Armenian-American writers. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 17, 2016
    In this satisfying debut novel, Billy Monday, an Irish immigrant, and Charles McLaughlin, his young, orphaned accomplice, are small-time con artists who end up in Richfield, Tenn. The year is 1916 and war fever is mounting in the U.S. The two begin buying and selling mules to be used by the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, but they are themselves taken when they buy a mare from local bigwig Leland Hatcher that turns out to be a killer. Further complicating matters is Hatcher’s daughter, Catherine, with whom Charles promptly falls in love, finding himself out of his depth in her elite social world. Footloose Charles decides to buy some land and put down roots in Richfield, hoping to impress Catherine and her father. These chapters are interspersed with flashbacks of new immigrant Billy’s relationship with a young woman named Maura. America’s entry into World War I and Charles’s relationship with Catherine impel the young man to make a fateful decision that will have consequences for all concerned. Reading like a cross between Faulkner’s “Spotted Horses” and Fitzgerald’s “The Last of the Belles,” this novel is filled with nearly melodramatic situations that are rescued by the intelligence of the writing and the acuity of the characterizations, on the way to its bittersweet denouement.

  • AudioFile Magazine The story of two horse traders swindling their way around early 1900s Tennessee becomes an engrossing audiobook, thanks to the narration talents of Don Hagen. Sometimes gruff and other times sweetly humorous, Hagen's tone captures the time period with universal appeal. He chooses to take a subtle approach to various characters' voices, and his skill with transitions and variations is such that the listener can easily follow along. When protagonists Charles and Billy find themselves the unfortunate owners of a vicious black horse, they make personal and professional choices that promise, or threaten, to change their lives forever. Reminiscent of the work of Larry McMurtry and Larry Watson, this audiobook has the power to transport the listener to an earlier America. L.B.F. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
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The Midnight Cool
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Lydia Peelle
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