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The Midnight Cool: A Novel
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HarperCollins 2017
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The Whiting Award—winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.

A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion—making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.

Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of Leland Hatcher, the richest man in Richfield, Tennessee, and the former owner of The Midnight Cool. The horse would be worth a fortune—if she weren't a verified man-killer who attacks on sight. Charles and Billy are rooted in this muggy town until they can miraculously retrain their recalcitrant mare, and in the shadow of the growing inevitability of war, their bond begins to fray. Falling in love with Catherine—and under the spell of the deceitful, wealthy Leland, the vision of himself he'd like to be—Charles pulls away from the older man.

Despite their growing distance, Billy and Charles find their business thriving when the war in Europe pushes the demand for mules sky-high and the United States enters the fight. But when a trade goes terribly wrong, Charles is forced to reevaluate his allegiance to his country, the moral implications of his lifestyle, his relationship with Catherine, and, ultimately, his mysterious and surprisingly deep connection to Billy.

Populated by spirited, memorable characters, The Midnight Cool is a startlingly profound tale of aspiration, loyalty, and love—and the eternal search for something lasting in a transitory world.

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Format:
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Street Date:
01/10/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062475497
ASIN:
B01G1GDAG2
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APA Citation (style guide)

Lydia Peelle. (2017). The Midnight Cool: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Lydia Peelle. 2017. The Midnight Cool: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Lydia Peelle, The Midnight Cool: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Lydia Peelle. The Midnight Cool: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Jun 12, 2018 17:24:39
Date Updated:
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        Lydia Peelle is the author of the novel The Midnight Cool and the story collection Reasons For and Advantages of Breathing, which received an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. She received her MFA from the University of Virginia and has been a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Ucross, Yaddo, and Ragdale. Peelle is a recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, an O. Henry Prize, the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" honor, and a Whiting Award, as well as the Anahid Award for Emerging Armenian-American writers. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

      • name: Lydia Peelle
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title
The Midnight Cool
fullDescription

The Whiting Award—winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.

A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion—making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.

Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful, rebellious daughter of Leland Hatcher, the richest man in Richfield, Tennessee, and the former owner of The Midnight Cool. The horse would be worth a fortune—if she weren't a verified man-killer who attacks on sight. Charles and Billy are rooted in this muggy town until they can miraculously retrain their recalcitrant mare, and in the shadow of the growing inevitability of war, their bond begins to fray. Falling in love with Catherine—and under the spell of the deceitful, wealthy Leland, the vision of himself he'd like to be—Charles pulls away from the older man.

Despite their growing distance, Billy and Charles find their business thriving when the war in Europe pushes the demand for mules sky-high and the United States enters the fight. But when a trade goes terribly wrong, Charles is forced to reevaluate his allegiance to his country, the moral implications of his lifestyle, his relationship with Catherine, and, ultimately, his mysterious and surprisingly deep connection to Billy.

Populated by spirited, memorable characters, The Midnight Cool is a startlingly profound tale of aspiration, loyalty, and love—and the eternal search for something lasting in a transitory world.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
      • content: "A poetic knitting of historical fiction and contemporary parable. . . . Peelle spins an American tale that explores the nature of love and tragedy, and the complicated connections between humans and animals."
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times
      • content: "Fully imagined...affecting...Billy's longer and fuller life makes him the more vibrant of the two characters, but the mysteries of Charles's fate propel the book...THE MIDNIGHT COOL is undergirded by the considerable agility and charm of Peelle's voice, and by her deeply attuned love of nature."
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Peelle's sad, swirling tale teems with grabby historical minutiae...Thankfully, the narrative's multifarious hard-luck stories are also leavened with cunning flashes of humor."
      • premium: False
      • source: Bookpage
      • content: "Peelle is a writer to watch. She deftly recounts the surprisingly fascinating history of mules, who bore the brunt of American labor during the period and whose resiliency and strength made them key players in the war effort, while also giving us a rich, satisfying novel, full of memorable characters grappling with love, loyalty, identity and the struggle to build something that lasts in a rapidly changing world."
      • premium: False
      • source: Bookreporter.com
      • content: "Dazzling...THE MIDNIGHT COOL is a masterfully crafted novel of victory and defeat, longing, discovery and treachery, featuring a cast of characters portrayed with such depth as to become memorable long after we close the cover."
      • premium: False
      • source: Mary Beth Keane, author of FEVER and THE WALKING PEOPLE
      • content: "I was taken in by every line in THE MIDNIGHT COOL. When I finished the last page I held the book tight for a moment and then flipped back to begin again. In this debut, Peelle uses her remarkable talent to remind the reader that we - all of us - are at the mercy of so many things beyond our control, and that life goes quickly, and that we only get one. I feel certain that only in Peelle's hands could I feel as moved by the flicker of kinship between a horse and a mule as I did for the love between the human beings who live in these pages. This is a great story."
      • premium: False
      • source: Eleanor Henderson, author of TEN THOUSAND SAINTS
      • content: "Dark and delightful and achingly authentic, this is an exquisite story of love, war, sex, death, and mules. They say mules have the best features of donkeys and horses, and the same is true of THE MIDNIGHT COOL—it's both tough and athletic, smart and fast, vigorous and lithe. I couldn't ask for a more beautiful book."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "Satisfying...[reads] like a cross between Faulkner's 'Spotted Horses' and Fitzgerald's 'The Last of the Belles.'"
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus
      • content: "I was taken in by every line in THE MIDNIGHT COOL. When I finished the last page I held the book tight for a moment and then flipped back to begin again. In this debut, Peelle uses her remarkable talent to remind the reader that we - all of us - are at the mercy of so many things beyond our control, and that life goes quickly, and that we only get one. I feel certain that only in Peelle's hands could I feel as moved by the flicker of kinship between a horse and a mule as I did for the love between the human beings who live in these pages. This is a great story."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        October 17, 2016
        In this satisfying debut novel, Billy Monday, an Irish immigrant, and Charles McLaughlin, his young, orphaned accomplice, are small-time con artists who end up in Richfield, Tenn. The year is 1916 and war fever is mounting in the U.S. The two begin buying and selling mules to be used by the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, but they are themselves taken when they buy a mare from local bigwig Leland Hatcher that turns out to be a killer. Further complicating matters is Hatcher’s daughter, Catherine, with whom Charles promptly falls in love, finding himself out of his depth in her elite social world. Footloose Charles decides to buy some land and put down roots in Richfield, hoping to impress Catherine and her father. These chapters are interspersed with flashbacks of new immigrant Billy’s relationship with a young woman named Maura. America’s entry into World War I and Charles’s relationship with Catherine impel the young man to make a fateful decision that will have consequences for all concerned. Reading like a cross between Faulkner’s “Spotted Horses” and Fitzgerald’s “The Last of the Belles,” this novel is filled with nearly melodramatic situations that are rescued by the intelligence of the writing and the acuity of the characterizations, on the way to its bittersweet denouement.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        November 1, 2016
        In this colorful down-home drama, two young drifters stop for a time in Tennessee of a century ago, where they trade in mules and learn of local secrets amid the small-town ferment of the U.S. entering World War I. Billy and Charles find themselves lingering in Richfield, Tennessee, after a local parvenu tricks them into buying The Midnight Cool, a beautiful mare with a murderous temperament. Charles soon has a good job trading in mules being sent overseas for British troops. He also has fallen for the parvenu's daughter, Catherine, and must set himself up as worthy of her. Billy, somewhat sidelined, gets a back story in brief, eloquent chapters that interrupt the main narrative. In fact, Peelle (Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, 2009, etc.) seems torn between her two male leads. While Charles carries the main plot and themes (star-crossed love, patriotism, profit versus honesty, and dark family histories), he's a bit dense and melodramatic. Billy is more likable. He has the best lines, the wit to grasp any situation quickly, and the grit to endure physical pain and the emotional wounds of one bad choice. Such choices and their consequences can seem to stand like billboards in the story--along with lines that seem scripted for a Clint Eastwood parody, like: "A mule's got nothing but his own life to prove himself by." Charles and Catherine face one such choice after their first night of sex. Her father's affair with a black servant brings on more than one and sets up the book's cruelest scene. Charles has another tough one when some of the mules in a big shipment come down with a fatal infectious disease. Peelle isn't subtle with these message moments, but she's a natural storyteller with a fine sense of town life and characters and of a time when maybe irony couldn't tarnish words like "duty."

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        December 15, 2016
        In Whiting Awardwinner Peelle's (Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing, 2009) richly textured first novel, itinerant grifters Charles and Billy are stuck in Richfield, Tennessee, after an ill-advised purchase leaves them saddled with a killer mare named Midnight Cool. When Billy is seriously injured attempting to tame the wild, previously abused horse, Charles discovers a suddenly lucrative business, procuring mules to be sent to Europe as the U.S. enters WWI. Charles, the fast-talking, quick-witted, orphaned son of a prostitute, soon finds himself socializing with Richfield's elite and falling madly in love with Catherine, the rebellious daughter of the town's richest and possibly cruelest resident. Peelle artfully navigates the subtle distinctions that separate man and beast, often leaving one to wonder which is which. The skillfully crafted characters are rendered with acute psychological insight into the moral dilemmas that shape one's humanity and sense of right and wrong. The propulsive narrative, fueled by poetic prose, is made more powerful by the heart-wrenching, quietly heroic lives eked out in the margins of history. For fans of Mary Gaitskill and Ron Rash.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

popularity
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shortDescription

The Whiting Award—winning author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing delivers her enchanting debut novel, set in 1916 Tennessee: a rich and rewarding tale of two flawed yet endearing grifters who pursue women, wealth, and a surprisingly valuable commodity for the troops in Europe—mules.

A middle-aged Irish immigrant, Billy has a gift for illusion—making damaged objects look new. His companion, Charles, the smooth-tongued teenage son of a prostitute, is a natural salesman, just like the mythical father he's never met. Longtime horse traders and partners, they've recently turned their talents to trading mules. But in the summer of 1916, these seasoned grifters skilled in the art of the underhanded deal have just been swindled themselves. They're saddled with the one thing they may not be able to unload: a gorgeous, murderous black mare named The Midnight Cool.

Charles should have listened to Catherine, the beautiful,...

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