Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Country Dark

by Chris Offutt

Chris Offutt’s long-awaited return to fiction after nearly two decades, Country Dark is a fierce noir-inflected novel about a good man pushed by circumstance into crime.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date March 19, 2019
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2933-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 240
  • Publication Date April 10, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2779-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $24.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date April 10, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4616-8
  • US List Price $24.00

About the Book

Chris Offutt is an outstanding literary talent, whose work has been called “lean and brilliant” (New York Times Book Review) and compared by reviewers to Tobias Wolff, Ernest Hemingway, and Raymond Carver. He’s been awarded the Whiting Writers Award for Fiction/Nonfiction and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award, among numerous other honors. His first work of fiction in nearly two decades, Country Dark is a taut, compelling novel set in rural Kentucky from the Korean War to 1970.

Tucker, a young veteran, returns from war to work for a bootlegger. He falls in love and starts a family, and while the Tuckers don’t have much, they have the love of their home and each other. But when his family is threatened, Tucker is pushed into violence, which changes everything. The story of people living off the land and by their wits in a backwoods Kentucky world of shine-runners and laborers whose social codes are every bit as nuanced as the British aristocracy, Country Dark is a novel that blends the best of Larry Brown and James M. Cain, with a noose tightening evermore around a man who just wants to protect those he loves. It reintroduces the vital and absolutely distinct voice of Chris Offutt, a voice we’ve been missing for years.

Tags Literary Noir

Praise for Country Dark:

“Offutt’s magic is that all of Tucker’s entanglements are dealt with in a manner so roundly humane you feel bathed in light, not plunged in the dark . . . Books like this tell the truth . . . The love in this is deep and powerful. And winsome twinkles shine through the blackness throughout, thanks in no small part to Offutt’s keen ear and eye . . . This is the Chris Offutt book I’ve been waiting for—an achievement of spellbinding momentum and steadfast heart.”—Smith Henderson, New York Times Book Review

“Offutt impressively inhabits this impoverished, fiercely private world without condescension or romance, fashioning a lean, atmospheric story that moves fluidly between the extremes of violence and love . . . Offutt is such a measured and unexcitable stylist that the story never wallows in the grotesque . . . [A] fine homage to a pocket of the country that’s as beautiful as it is prone to tragedy.”—Wall Street Journal

“Chris Offutt’s work about mountain life earns high praise from other writers, and Country Dark, his return to fiction, is entirely welcome and a pleasure all around.…Offutt writes so well, with such deep knowledge of the language and people, that Country Dark is likely to be read straight through, no resting places.”—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone

Country Dark is such a strong work, one hopes we won’t have to wait nearly as long for additional fiction from his pen . . . Offutt’s prose is sharp and the noir tone of the book never wavers. Even more importantly, his dialogue, shaped by the dialect of the region, rings true. Country Dark may read like a mythical epic, but its characters feel wholly real.”—Cedar Rapids Gazette

“[Chris Offutt] writes so well and knows the people and places he writes about . . . [and] he has the ability to enter the minds of his characters. Country Dark is a heart-wrenching story of a man who is caught between violence and his love. It is the story of a man who knows how to use violence to protect his love and dignity. This is one of those stay-up-all-night novels we all yearn for.”—Washington Book Review

“Like the late, great Larry Brown and the late, great William Gay, Chris Offutt delivers a hardscrabble, mythic South with a laconic voice that turns sly to describe the follies of Man…Country Dark is a smart, rich country noir.” —Stewart O’Nan, author of City of Secrets

“If Tucker is a man of few words neither are there wasted words in Chris Offutt’s bang-bang second novel, Country Dark . . . [Offutt is] a refined, versatile writer, sometimes impish, always ecumenical, never snobbish . . . He scatters little halos of earthy metaphor … locates dark prophecy in shades of detail . . . [and] has a great ear for humorous rural chatter.”—Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“There are very few things that are worth waiting for . . . Let us add new fiction from author Chris Offutt to that short list . . . Country Dark is exquisitely plotted and wonderfully told . . . This is one of those books that reminds us why we constantly read, which is the hope of discovering a work such as this that succeeds on all imaginable levels as well as a few unexpected ones.”—Book Reporter

“It’s been nearly 20 years since Offutt’s Out of the Woods (1999), and his return to fiction will be celebrated by all readers of country noir . . . Tucker is a true existential hero, facing his circumscribed world directly and acting with unflinching determination. His story, like the work of Daniel Woodrell, is both heartrendingly painful and unsentimentally uplifting.” —Booklist

“A lean, mean meditation on family, boundaries, and what a good man will do to protect the ones he loves. In this blood-and whiskey-soaked landscape, I’m reminded of both Faulkner and Steve Earle. A morality tale where grit and heart hold equal weight.” —Ace Atkins, author of The Fallen

Country Dark is a taut, well-constructed novel easily consumed in one sitting.”—Shelf Awareness

“Chris Offutt has crafted a whole new kind of book—steeped in elements of noir and rich cinematic devices—brimming with characters that are simultaneously realistic while also mythical in the best, bigger-than-real-life kind of way. Country Dark is a perfect balance of wonderful language and pulsing action. I couldn’t put it down.”—Silas House, author of Clay’s Quilt

“I’ve waited nearly twenty years for another novel by Chris Offutt, and boy is Country Dark worth it! From its excellent title to its last page, this one will pull you in and immerse you in the lives of its myriad characters . . . Offutt is a terrific writer with impressive range.” —Thomas Franklin, author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Country Dark is grim and funny and touching. It’s a crime story, a novel of backwoods manners, and a family saga. It’s many things at once, all of them great. Masterful descriptions of the natural world bump up against scenes of shocking violence, and you’re left in awe, wondering how the hell Chris Offutt managed to pull this book off.” —Richard Lange, author of The Smack

“In Offutt’s first work of fiction since 1997’s The Good Brother, the award-winning author delivers a rich, compelling story of hardscrabble Kentucky mountain life while showing deep empathy for his careworn characters.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“A Southern gothic story . . . Offutt has a fine ear for Kentucky-speak . . . that capture[s] the rhythms of rural conversation . . . Tucker is a knotty and complex character . . . A compelling and brooding read.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Offutt’s exceptional new novel (following his memoir My Father, the Pornographer) brings to light with gritty, heartfelt precision what one character, a social worker, calls the ‘two Kentuckys, east and west, dirt and blacktop.’ . . . Offutt’s prose cuts deep and sharp . . .  An undeniable testament to the importance and clarity of Offutt’s voice in contemporary American literature.” —Publishers Weekly

“[Offutt’s] bleak, savage depictions of rural down-and-outers combine the literary style of James Dickey with the noir chops of Daniel Woodrell.  He has a well-deserved reputation as a writer’s writer. . . Tense and atmospheric, Country Dark is firmly rooted in time and place, with the verisimilitude expected from a writer who has made the shadowy hills of Kentucky his own.”—BookPage


Praise for Chris Offutt:

“His people have an heroic dignity.”—James Salter on Kentucky Straight

“Everything Chris Offutt writes is beautiful and brilliant.”—Elizabeth McCracken on My Father, the Pornographer

“If you haven’t read Chris Offutt, you’ve missed an accomplished and compelling writer . . . Masterfully written, insightful, and altogether unforgettable.”— Chicago Tribune on Out of the Woods

“Chris Offutt owns one of the finest, surest prose styles around, ready and able to convey the hardest truth without flinching . . . [A] masterpiece.”—Michael Chabon on My Father, the Pornographer

“Lean and brilliant, Offutt’s obvious kin are Richard Ford, Tobias Wolff, and Ernest Hemingway. A magical book.”—Leon Rooke, The New York Times Book Review on Out of the Woods

“Offutt. . . is a shot of Kentucky bourbon, a writer whose distillations of life are spare and pure and breathtaking.”— Chicago Tribune on No Heroes

Out of the Woods has the quiet majesty of classic American fiction. This is beautiful prose—as clear and pure and flowing as a mountain stream. Offutt packs more emotion, and more emotional truth, into a sentence than any American writer since Raymond Carver.”—Dan Cryer, Newsday on Out of the Woods

“The stories in Out of the Woods are emotionally accurate, incessantly vivid, and utterly compelling. This is a talent for the long haul.”—William Kittredge on Out of the Woods

“Offutt never uses a metaphor that isn’t perfect, nor one that doesn’t reveal character . . . Prose doesn’t get any sharper than Chris Offutt’s.”—Laura Demanski, Baltimore Sun on Out of the Woods

“This is good storytelling . . . Out of the Woods is a splendid, compulsive, heartbroken, misleading sequence of American yarns.”—Rick Moody, Book Forum on Out of the Woods

“The new book confirms his mastery of short fiction about rural lives rendered with laconic intensity, Offutt is a mean hand at pithy sentences, hard-edged dialogue, and the lean portrayal of masculine vices like impulsive violence and compulsive restlessness . . . Out of the Woods is a collection to put on the shelf next to Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.”— Outside on Out of the Woods

“Chris Offutt is back, writing with his gritty but also poetic language about mid-century east Kentucky. In Country Dark, he takes what in lesser hands could be a mere stereotypical situation of hardscrabble Appalachian life, but instead goes much deeper to reveal the core of one man’s humanity as he risks everything, including his life, to hold his family together. Offutt is a born storyteller. He draws us in from the first page and never lets us go.” —Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall and Serena