a novel by Marlin Barton
Hardcover, 288 pages, 5 3/8 x 8"
Cover photo: Tim Coy
Sixteen-year-old James, just released from an eight-month stay at Hargrove, Alabama's largest juvenile detention center, gazes upon the slow waters of the Black Fork River as if he already understands the history it holds for him. But only Nathan Rutledge, his mother's boyfriend and the closest thing James might ever have for a father, truly understands how bound together he and James are with the river, its darkly wooded banks, and with each other.
Puckett, the owner of the local bar, also knows James well. He had paid James to break into vacant camp houses and steal whatever valuables presented themselves. Unfortunately James's judgment failed him one fateful night as an old man surprised him at gunpoint.
What follows is a story of hidden shadows; revenge and redemption; the confrontation of James's family, friends, and acquaintances, who in various ways try to ameliorate their own guilt as James struggles with discerning right from wrong, and, finally, the eradication of all that's evil in the story.
In The Cross Garden Marlin Barton combines his storytelling abilities with his vibrant description of the Southern landscape to create his most brilliant and most important novel. As for what "the cross garden" is, you must travel the Black Fork to gain the knowledge of what James discovers.
Marlin Barton and his wife, Rhonda, live in Montgomery, Alabama, where he is assistant director of Writing Our Stories, the premier writing program for juvenile offenders in the nation. He also teaches creative writing in the MFA program at Converse College in South Carolina. A graduate of the University of Alabama and Wichita State University, he has received the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook Award for a best first volume of short stories, and has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. Barton's previous works include a novel (A Broken Thing) and two collections of stories (The Dry Well and Dancing by the River).