Mount Orbit : a short novel ; &, the ballad of Dick Shuck : a screenplay
MetadataShow full item record
Mount Orbit is a short novel chronicling three months in the life of Willie Shanks, a ne'er-do-well orphan from Mount Orbit, Kentucky, who is sprung from jail on the first page, determined to go home, and walk the straight and narrow. He returns the prodigal son, attends a revival at church where the elders lay on hands in hopes that he stays in the hollow of God's hand. Things are different when he returns home. His sister is dating a cop named Baxter. His girlfriend decides she wants to be a self-reliant woman, and his guardian, Aunt Peel, has taken in Hazel DeVore, a unwed mother ready to give birth. Despite his best intentions, he ends up working for Big Mike Tritt, a small-town drug dealer who despises the town of Mount Orbit and wishes to wipe it off the map. Willie makes friends with Doc Walker, The Reverend, and Gerald Tate, regulars at Big Mike's and falls in lust with Maxine, Big Mike's sometimes-girlfriend and barkeep. When Big Mike offers to let Willie run a drug operation out of the drive-thru, Willie has a brief moment of conscience, but then decides that the ends will justify the means. Big Mike, a Vietnam Vet who suffers delusions of grandeur himself, doesn't have time to run his drug operation because he is busily buying up all the downtown property in a covert effort to tear down an entire city block to seek revenge on the upper class of Mount Orbit after they snubbed him as a returning vet. Things turn sticky when a hillbilly undercover agent turns up at Big Mike's, and Gerald is found mysteriously dead in the elevator shaft of an old downtown building. People suspect Big Mike, business grinds to a halt, and he's run out of town on a rail. Willie gets sole ownership of Big Mike's and control of a drug operation he never intended to have. The Ballad of Dick Shuck is about a Confederate solider returning to Kentucky after the Civil War. He is still poor and no better off than he was before the conflict. His parents are poor tobacco farmers, but Shuck refuses to live that life anymore. He takes up with King Jim Simmons and the Goodrich boys, counterfeiters and bandits that comb the Kentucky River for unsuspecting peddlers to murder. Sheriff Smoot offers Shuck a job the same day King Jim Simmons offers him a position with his marauding outfit. After accidentally shooting a loud-mouthed Yankee during a drunken card game, Shuck is blackmailed by King Jim and forced to work both sides of the law. Shuck doublecrosses King Jim, who seeks revenge by killing Shuck's parents and pinning the murder on Shuck. Shuck is so overcome by the guilt of the numerous other murders and sins he has committed, he decides to go to the gallows even though he is innocent of the crime that will send him there. In the end, Shuck hangs as a hero, while King Jim and the Goodrich boys are hunted down and lynched.