Like Lions, by Mike Panowich.
Hold onto your seats, folks, you’re in for a very bumpy ride as former FireFighter Brian Panowich flexes his literary muscles and launches our readers’ rollercoaster at the summit of Bull Mountain, his first novel of a family of Good Ole Boys gone bad in North Georgia.
The first book recounts the history of a dynasty of hillbilly drug-dealers started by Cooper Burroughs, who killed his brother Riley in front of Cooper’s 9 year-old son Gareth because Riley thought they should try to make money legitimately – then Cooper instructed Gareth to dig Riley’s grave. Mountain Men are tough, and their sons better be damn tough as well. The sooner they learn that the better!
Gareth grows up according to plan; the sad thing is that he has three sons whom he expects to be as ruthless and brutal as he has trained them and they are, expanding his meth empire with the outside help of a biker gang into other states – except for youngest son Clayton: durned if he hasn’t become the local Sheriff! And as far from being a crooked lawman living in their pocket as it is possible to be, for Clayton loves his wife, loves where he lives, and wants to Protect and Serve. ‘Bull Mountain’ deals with his struggle to reconcile his upbringing, his conscience and his homicidal family – just managing to survive after a bloody shoot-out with his brother, the consequences of which are covered in ‘Like Lions’.
It’s not easy to produce a sequel that lives up to the excitement and suspense of the first book, but Mr Panowich has succeeded effortlessly, carrying on the unrelenting tension and brutal characterisation at a heart-stopping rate. Clayton is still Sheriff, but has been terribly wounded in the gunfight with his brother; he is now a father, with a baby son at home – and a wife he sees less of than he should, for his conscience won’t let him alone and he drinks to stop its nagging voice. The family drug empire without his brother’s leadership is floundering and other crims are making aggressive moves. What to do? How can a crippled, alky headcase save his community – save anything? Clayton is in a very dark place, and worse is yet to come.
The writer saves the day in a way that doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence; he ties up all loose ends efficiently and as a bonus provides a most satisfying twist to the plot at the very end. His larger-than-life characters (and their dialogue!) are unforgettable: hard men, harsh prose, and hard country. Brian Panowich, you’re a STAR. SIX STARS.