"The Scummers." By Lee Maynard. Vandalia Press. 248 pages.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in."That's how Robert Frost defined home in his epic poem "The Death of the Hired Man."But there's a problem with the definition. What if you have no home? What if you spend your life searching for a home and find no one to take you in? If so you may be Jesse Stone, the protagonist in a trio of novels, the latest of which, titled "The Scummers," has just been published by Vandalia Press, an imprint of West Virginia University Press.
All three were written by West Virginia native Lee Maynard, whose first novel, "Crum," was published 24 years ago. Although Maynard said the book had nothing to do with "Crum," a small Wayne County town where he once lived, the folks in Crum didn't believe him, and most declared a virtual feud against the author.The book's torrent of four-letter words and steamy situations got it banned from Tamarack, the state's showcase of arts and crafts. So was the second in the Maynard's Crum trilogy, "Screaming With the Cannibals," for basically the same reason. "The Scummers" will likely follow.The books are rollicking explosions of words and scenes that would make most anyone blush or gasp or both. In the first book, Jesse is living on the banks of the river that separates West Virginia and Kentucky. He lives in West Virginia where the folks call the people across the river a porcine epithet that can't be printed in a family newspaper or any of the books on the shelves at Tamarack.Jesse lets it be known from the beginning that he believes God has put him in a place that isn't and never will be his home, and he plots his escape.The novel explodes with characters and events that anyone familiar with rural West Virginia will recognize. After all, the mountains are full of eccentrics as real as the Hatfields and McCoys."Screaming With the Cannibals," Maynard's second book, gets its name from the fact the adults in Jesse's Crum told him not to go across the river to Kentucky because cannibals lived there. But, of course, Jesse has to see for himself and winds up in a Kentucky Pentecostal Church meeting screaming with "the cannibals" before making his way to -- where else? -- the Mecca for all West Virginians, Myrtle Beach.He befriends Myrtle Beach blacks, not knowing he wasn't supposed to do that, and winds up being threatened out of town by white folks. Nope, no home in Myrtle Beach."The Scummers" finds Jesse heading west to California, still looking for a home but not really admitting what he is searching for. From there, his odyssey continues until he winds up in the Army. On every stop along the way, he runs into more amazing, mostly obscene and thoroughly unrighteous characters, not unlike the ones he ran away from in Crum, Kentucky and Myrtle Beach."The Scummers" is intense, hot to the touch, gripping like a steel trap and darkly humorous. It is engaging, especially for those who like wild amusement park rides.Jesse comes full circle in this final work in the Crum trilogy. He returns to Crum for a visit and those who have followed Jesse's exploits from the beginning will find a surprising link to the first book in his visit. Thus, those who have followed Jesse from the beginning nearly a quarter-century ago will be somewhat sated but probably not fully satisfied.For those who want to buy one or all of the books in the trilogy, visit the West Virginia University Press at www.wvupressonline.com/crum_trilogy
Want to go?
WHAT: Lee Maynard will read and discuss "The Scummers"WHERE: J.D. Waggoner Reading Room at the West Virginia Library Commission at the West Virginia Culture CenterWHEN: noon to 1 p.m. June 11.WHAT ELSE? The book also will be for sale. You are welcome to bring a bag lunch. Light refreshments will be provided.Dave Peyton is a retired former columnist for the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington and the Charleston Daily Mail.