The year is 1910. Halley’s Comet has just signaled the end of the world, and Jack Johnson has knocked out the “Great White Hope,” Jim Jeffries. Keystone, West Virginia, is the region’s biggest boomtown, and on a rainy Sunday morning in August, its townspeople are gathered in a red-light district known as Cinder Bottom to witness the first public hanging in over a decade. Abe Baach and Goldie Toothman are at the gallows, awaiting their execution. He’s Keystone’s most famous poker player; she’s the madam of its most infamous brothel. Abe split town seven years prior under suspicion of armed robbery and murder, and has been playing cards up and down the coast, hustling under a variety of pseudonyms, ever since. But when he returns to Keystone to reunite with Goldie and to set the past right, he finds a brother dead and his father’s saloon in shambles—and suspects the same men might be responsible for both. Only then, in facing his family’s past, does the real swindle begin.
Glenn Taylor, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, has a unique voice that breathes life into history and a prose style that snaps with lyricism and comedy.