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Richard Marius: The Coming of the Rain

This is a murder mystery but set in East Tennessee shortly after the Civil War (the East bit is important as the East was substantially pro-Union in the Civil War). There is a terrible drought in the town of Bourbonville. The story starts off with a report of the murder of Mrs. Simson by her husband. It is obvious that Mr. Simson is guilty and he is soon condemned to hang. The opening scene at the hanging is marvellously described by Marius. Simson seems crazy but, suddenly, in everyone’s hearing predicts rain for the following night, though there is no sign of it. Mr. Bazely, the preacher whose origins are somewhat dubious, preaches hell-fire. The redneck Quillen Bradshaw taunts and then attacks two passing blacks, till he is in turn attacked by Sheriff Hub Delaney. Sam Beckwith, the young hero, watches all of this. Finally, Simson is hanged. Of course, it is clear that there is more than meets the eye to Mrs. Simson’s death as there is more to learn about Mr. Bazely, about Samuel Beckwith’s parents, about the mysterious German girl, Emily, whom young Beckwith takes a fancy to and, finally, about Simson’s prediction. What Marius does so well is to evoke the hot summer of East Tennessee as everyone waits for rain, while telling a story replete not only with mystery but with humour, romance and drama.

Publishing history

First published 1969 by Alfred A. Knopf