The Blood of Heaven.pdf
Shortlisted for the David J. Langum Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction
Longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan Award for First Fiction
One of Publishers Weekly’s Best Summer Books of 2013
A Spirit Summer Reading Pick
When you read as many contemporary novels as I do, it's easy to get jaundiced, because we're awash in hype, and almost nothing ever seems quite as good as it's cracked up to be. So please know that I'm not just giving this young author a pass. I truly can count on the fingers of one hand the number of first novels that have ever excited me this much. Wascom made me think at times of Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier and William Gay, but his vision is very much his own, as is his extraordinary voice. He's left himself a hard act to follow. This book is pure gold.”Steve Yarbrough
The young Master Wascom arrives at our gates wielding a narrative broadsword, speaking in a monstrous voice, a Louisiana visionary in command of an army of bones and by God he comes to conquer. It’s been more than a decade since the literary world has seen such a portentous debut from a novelist prodigy, equal parts savage and savant, and what else is there to say but All hail the futurethis boy king has fifty more years of writing to feed our hungry souls."Bob Shacochis
Young Kent Wascom went down to the crossroads and there he made his deal. Or maybe he was just born spirited for this kind of work. Either way, I cannot name such a stunning debut as this one. It reads as not written, but lived and rememberedand how impossible is that? Whoever may own Kent Wascom’s soul, The Blood of Heaven will forever be ours.”Robert Olmstead
The Blood of Heaven is a brilliant comic rant that, with its twisted religious fervor, holds on to the reader and does not let go. Kent Wascom takes a nugget of colonial historythe Aaron Burr Conspiracyand imbues it with a fiery life. His is a singular, important, and utterly vital voice.”Sabina Murray
In the present age of cultural strife and national re-definition, a brilliantly resonant novel blooming from America’s ever-thus history is just what the zeitgeist deserves. And The Blood of Heaven is as achingly beautiful in its personal story as it is savagely clear-headed in its national story. Kent Wascom has arrived fully-formed as a very important American writer.”Robert Olen Butler
Oh America, heart-broken and constantly fought over! The Blood of Heaven is a dark hymn to the ruthless and ruinous early days in the Louisiana fringes of our republic. In the tradition of As I Lay Dying and Flannery O'Connor and Blood Meridian, idiomatic and far off into transgression, this one, from Kent Wascom, bless his genius, is the real deal.”William Kittredge
Wascom is a craftsman, and each of his lengthy, winding sentances shimmers with the tang of blood and bone and sweat, and the archaic splendor of his language.”Boston Globe
Rendered in lurid, swamp-fever prose swollen with biblical imagery (Burr first appears in the book on horseback, hailed like Christ Himself’), the South of Mr. Wascom's imagination is an inferno of plague, vice and slave trafficking. . . . It's that dizzying pace, especially as Angel sets off on a Tarantino-esque rampage of revenge killings, that makes the book so compelling. Mr. Wascom's writing rolls from the page in torrents, like the sermon of a revivalist preacher in the grip of inspiration. You can't help listening, no matter how wicked the message.”Wall Street Journal
Though he’s not yet 30, Mr. Wascom has the gift, the elusive it” that tells you on the first page that here is someone worth reading. . . . In its best moments, and there are many, you will slip completely into Wascom’s fictional world. . . . You will also be in the presence of a young writer whose talent is obvious, whose sense of narrative is classical and clear, whose understanding of the craft is deep and well-formed and will only get better.”New York Journal of Books
[Blood of Heaven] entertains with its energetic language and fast-paced action, and the love story between Angel and his wife is moving in its you-and-me-against-the-world naïveté. Wascom’s research is put to good use as the gargantuan forces of history squash Angel and his associates.”New York Times Book Review
The work of a young writer with tremendous ambition, a bildungsroman of religion and revolution set during an obscure chapter of American history. . . . [Wascom] creates a first-person narrator who speaks with fire-breathing eloquence, tormented by God and the Devil and equally conversant with both. . . . Wascom writes with a fire-breathing, impassioned eloquence. Angel’s voice compels our trust from the beginning and echoes all the ghosts of the dark Southern past.”Washington Post
If you thought the Wild West was wild, wait until you read about West Florida. In Kent Wascom’s stunning debut novel that territory serves as microcosm of a nation’s dark and violent infancy. . . . With its setting, its violence-driven plot and its resonant and often harshly beautiful language, The Blood of Heaven evokes comparison to the work of Cormac McCarthy. Its mordant humor and its exploration of slavery and violence as the tragic flaws at the heart of American historyas well as its awareness of what hellish danger awaits those who are sure God is on their siderecall such writers as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor and Mark Twain. Angel is a terrifying and irresistible narrator, and Kent Wascom is a striking new voice in American fiction.”Miami Herald
Wascom's West Florida makes the Old West look like a Disney resort in comparison, and his protagonist is a fitting emissary for this harsh and unforgiving land. . . . Whether describing a tender moment between husband and wife or a brutal revenge killing, there's no question of Wascom's range. . . . There is plenty here to applaud in this grim portrait of a dysfunctional frontier family caught up in a forgotten American war.”NPR Books
Kent Wascom, a 26-year-old Louisiana native, has produced an astonishingly assured debut. . . . He is more knowing than a writer his age has any right to be and displays a virtuosic command of biblical cadence and anachronistic vernacular without striking any false notes.”San Francisco Chronicle
Wascom’s setting fascinates, while the veneer of violence makes us eager spectators in this narrative of American conquest and survival. . . . Ultimately, Wascom skirts around Faulkner’s Mississippi, O’Connor’s Georgia, and McCarthy’s divided interests of Tennessee and Texas to firmly plant his stake in America’s Deep South. It is a wise move. In Blood of Heaven, Wascom paints a fuller portrait of the American South. Though he makes strong overtures to these Southern writers and their territory, Wascom makes it his own.”Washington Independent Review of Books
Kent Wascom has written a rollicking historical thriller, a juicy love story, religious symbolism, a tale of woe, adventure, lust, manhood, money-chasing, nationhood, and religious and racial bigotry in early 1800s America. . . . Early American history was raw and gritty, and Wascom deals in that hard-boiled reality, but it’s balanced by a polished and eloquent prose style that has a certain Old Testament quality to it, which gives the tale its unique flavor and gravity. . . . Wascom engages America’s original sin with real force and seriousness; indeed, there are brutal passages that detail this incredible evil as the real-life horror show it was, and truly show America’s complicity in a moral abhorrence.”Tallahassee Writers Association
Sweeping themes of good and evil along with colorful, visceral language and breakneck action combine in this earthy tale.”The Asheville Citizen-Times
Angel Woolsack forsakes life with his itinerant preacher father to follow a daring highwayman, then ends up wending his way from on-the-edge West Florida to the bordellos of Natchez, the plantations of Mississippi, and finally New Orleans, where Aaron Burr is leading efforts to create a new country. It’s a brave and bloody new world, captured with energy.”Library Journal
The Blood of Heaven is sharply intelligent extremely violent, constantly profane, darkly comic and very angry. . . .[But] the anger is rooted in moral outrage, so it’s on the side of the angels.”Columbus Dispatch
Though it says nothing good about America’s progress that we can still be seduced by a killer and slave-merchant with a coal-burnt silver tongue, this is precisely Wascom’s point. The myths of the founders are our myths, too, and they are myths that I hope Wascom continues to aim at.”KGB Bar Lit Magazine
In elegant, lucid prose, fiction newcomer Kent Wascom brings the frontier, in all its violence and disorder, to stunning life in The Blood of Heaven. . . . Wascom is not yet 30, but he infuses his story with a wisdom, awareness, and clarity well beyond his years. . . . Angel’s hold on us never wavers but intensifies. The Blood of Heaven proves Wascom is a trailblazer whose brilliance is not a one-off but a true and rooted fact.”BookMagnet
Set in the early par...
Kent Wascom was born in New Orleans in 1986, and spent his childhood in Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida. He attended Louisiana State University and received his MFA from Florida State University. In 2012, he won the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize for fiction, judged by Amy Hempel. Wascom lives in Tallahassee, Florida. The Blood of Heaven is his first novel.
The Blood of Heaven is the story of Angel Woolsack, a preacher’s son, who flees the hardscrabble life of his itinerant father, falls in with a charismatic highwayman, then settles with his adopted brothers on the rough frontier of West Florida, where American settlers are carving their place out of lands held by the Spaniards and the French. The novel moves from the bordellos of Natchez, where Angel meets his love Red Kate to the Mississippi River plantations, where the brutal system of slave labor is creating fantastic wealth along with terrible suffering, and finally to the back rooms of New Orleans among schemers, dreamers, and would-be revolutionaries plotting to break away from the young United States and create a new country under the leadership of the renegade founding father Aaron Burr.
The Blood of Heaven is a remarkable portrait of a young man seizing his place in a violent new world, a moving love story, and a vivid tale of ambition and political machinations that brilliantly captures the energy and wildness of a young America where anything was possible. It is a startling debut.