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And The Rain Came Down

by S.A. Bailey
reviewed by Erin Z. Bass

“A roughneck, redneck, and brawler, Jebediah Shaw had a wild streak wider than a country mile when he left home, and he was happy to have a war to fight. Now, battle scarred and weary, he’s returned to the girl of his dreams and the small East Texas town he calls home.”

The first paragraph description on the back of “And The Rain Came Down” immediately imparts a sense of character and place, something S.A. Bailey does exceptionally well throughout his debut novel. Having grown up in Bridgeport, Texas, outside of Forth Worth, Bailey is familiar with the landscape of the state’s eastern side.

He describes it as “the ragged edge of the Old South,” and its ranches, rolling hills and back roads become characters themselves, contributing to the fast-moving plot and providing places for Bailey’s villains to hide. In the first couple pages of the book we’re plunged into the story of a missing girl who’s gotten caught up in the drug scene that plagues so many small towns, and a dysfunctional family who wants her to come home. Instead of calling the police, her brother calls Jeb Shaw.

Having returned home from Iraq and spending his days drinking Jack Daniels instead of looking for a job, Jeb is enticed by $10,000 in cash and the promise of excitement. His subsequent search for the missing girl takes him to some of the seediest spots in the area, exposing the town’s meth problem and locals with once bright futures who’ve gotten trapped in the scene.

“Small towns are filled with Shakespearean tragedies everyone ignores during the light of day, as if denial somehow equaled salvation.” “The bartender was an ancient trailer park queen who’d never seen a pageant. She served our drinks and spat through the few remaining tobacco stained teeth in her head into a genuine brass spittoon.”

Jeb may not be on drugs, but he’s no saint either and quickly gets sucked back into the town’s way of life, jeopardizing his marriage and his future in the process. When the missing girl’s trail takes him to a strip club in Tyler, he doesn’t hesitate, nor does he stay sober. The reader comes to realize that Jeb has just as many demons as the criminals he’s chasing. A gun fetish and quick temper only add to his destructive personality.

“Roaring down the road, murder on my mind I watched the rain start back up, pushing thoughts out of my mind. I didn’t need them now. Too many variables were running through my head. Killing two known drug dealers and getting away with it is not hard to imagine. It might be the twenty first century everywhere else, but in East Texas people still looked upon frontier justice in a romantic light.”

But at Jeb’s core is a desire to change his life around and help a young girl who can’t help herself. He’s got his good qualities, including being a fan of Lucinda Williams and desperately loving his wife. He also knows he has to finish the job he started, no matter the outcome.

With more expertise than most first-time novelists, Bailey spins a tale that makes you want to keep turning the pages and find out how it ends. He uses some crude language and unpleasant situations to get there, but the story’s a good one and if you grew up in a small town, I’d be willing to bet you know someone just like Jeb Shaw.

“And The Rain Came Down” is available on S.A. Bailey’s website and on Amazon. To find out more about the author and read an excerpt from his next book, “The Lawyer’s Daughter,” visit his blog.

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