a flood began the tale entire), welcome these changes, and foresee a future of success and happiness never experienced during the reign of late-but-not-lamented matriarch Mary-Love Caskey. But aging Uncle James sees his beloved young nephew Danjo eventually shipped off to Germany, and worries and frets and foresees nothing but his own death...
1985 Corgi UK edition, cover art by Terry Oakes
But then McDowell zooms in close for those intimate revelations so essential to the Blackwater saga. Miriam seems to be turning out like Mary-Love, full of secret plans withheld from the family, impatient, imperious. Servicemen hang around Perdido at a dancehall on the lake, much to Lucille Caskey's delight. James's daughter Grace, once a phys-ed instructor at a girls' school (yes, make of that exactly what you will) returns to Perdido and ends up discovering she loves the country life, using Caskey money to begin a small farm outside of town. A new character is introduced: Billy Bronze, a handsome and intelligent (but of course) North Carolina corporal stationed nearby. His strong character impresses Elinor, who every Sunday invites soldiers to the Caskey home for a hearty after-church meal. Billy, raised by an abusive albeit wealthy father, realizes the unique quality of the Caskeys, and guilelessly plans to marry into them.
But not only were there a great many Caskey women, the women were in control of the family. Billy had never seen anything like it, and the whole notion fascinated him. He loved being around the Caskeys, and had grown very quickly to love them all... Oscar seemed rather put upon, and might have been utterly powerless had he not enjoyed at least superficial control fo the mill. James Caskey had abdicated his rights entirely, and had become a kind of woman himself. Danjo was a strong, masculine boy, but one trained nevertheless to believe that real power and real prestige lay with women and not with men.
I saw lots of these in used bookstores in the early '90s... and never bought 'em.
"But wait!" I hear you saying; "I thought this was a novel of bloodcurdling horror - gimme the goods!" Well, there isn't a lot of horror at all, bloodcurdling or otherwise, in The War; nope, just a scant few moments that bode (un)well for the final forthcoming tomes: an old lunatic man confronts Frances about her mother's origins and the Blackwater river; two teens go missing when they are to report for army duty; a woman is raped and inhuman vengeance doled out. McDowell knows when to underplay and when to lay it all out on the table, sure, but I must report that The War isn't quite up to The Flood or The House in intensity, but neither is it as lackluster as The Levee. It's an easy, entertaining read, comfortable and satisfying. Not everything can be splatterpunk you know.