The Devil Walks in Mattingly
For the three people tortured by their secret complicity in a young man’s untimely death, redemption is what they most long for . . . and the last thing they expect to receive.
It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since—Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.
Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.
Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.
Introducing Jake & Taylor
Brief physical description
Jake Barnett is sheriff of a small town in the Virginia mountains called Mattingly. He’s in his early forties, tall and thin. Very thin, as a matter of fact. He’s lost a good deal of weight in the past month due to nightmares keeping him from sleep. He’s in good shape, even if he’s starting to feel middle age beginning to creep in. In this story, Jake feels very old.
Taylor Hathcock is the same age as Jake, though he appears much older. He’s spent the last twenty eking out a solitary life in a mountainous area outside Mattingly known as Happy Hollow. The hostile environment has hardened his body, leaving a near leathery skin over a mass of functional muscle. His beard is thick, giving him the impression of a wild man.
I always envisioned Jake as a Matthew McConaughey-type guy, complete with the drawl in his speech, though with shorter hair and a quieter demeanor.
Taylor’s personality and mannerisms are best mirrored by the character of Boyd Crowder, played by Walton Goggins in the television show Justified: Unpredictable and prone to violence, yet strangely charismatic.
Strengths and weaknesses
Jake’s strength lies in his wife and son, who both serve as the bedrock of his life. It’s a foundation that’s held solid for years, though it’s now forming cracks because of Jake’s greatest weakness—his secret past. He’s tried his best to keep those old ghosts buried, but he’s discovering that sometimes those ghosts don’t stay there. Sometimes, they rise up again.
Despite Taylor’s lack of education, he’s extremely intelligent. It’s an asset that’s served him well, living alone in a forest that may or may not be filled with evil. And yet that intelligence has been skewed by a deep emotional hurt that has drifted into madness. The past haunts Taylor as well, but where Jake has leaned on his family to give him the strength to internalize his past, Taylor has used his bent intellect to convince himself that neither his past nor his present is real.
Quirk (if any)
Jake doesn’t go anywhere without two things—his black cowboy hat, and the tomahawk that has been passed down for generations from one Barnett to the next. Both of these accessories border on affectation. Even Jake somewhat sees them as nothing more than costume apparel, a means to pretend he’s someone he isn’t.
Taylor’s quirk is more internal. His only form of entertainment over the years has been a weathered and cracked copy of a high school English book of classic stories and poems. He’s adopted many of those linguistic mannerisms since, using them as a clumsy mask to cover the fact that he is uneducated.
Your inspiration for the character
I really wanted to build a story around the characters of Jake and Taylor, rather than building them around a story. My goal was to create a concrete sense in the reader’s mind that said, This is the good guy, and this is the bad guy, because everything he or she reads will lead to that conclusion. But as the story moves through the climax, I wanted that notion to reverse itself. The good guy? He isn’t so good. And the bad guy? Maybe he isn’t so bad after all. Maybe he was just wounded.
Background to the story
It has been twenty years since Phillip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But for two decades, three people have silently borne the horrible truth: Phillip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.
In the shadow of their hidden sin, each of the witnesses has withered. Jake Barnett, Mattingly’s sheriff, spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, convinces herself that the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. High in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, his madness fueled by burning hatred. But what has not been laid to rest is bound to rise again—Phillip McBride has been haunting Jake’s dreams, arguing an imminent, vengeful return.
When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from Happy Hollow, he believes his redemption is finally at hand. As Taylor’s insane quest plunges the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness, circumstances conspire to bring the three together for one final chance at redemption.
Billy on Billy: I’m a writer of four novels, Snow Day (2010), Paper Angels (2011) When Mockingbirds Sing (2013) and The Devil Walks in Mattingly (2014) with one more on the way by Thomas Nelson. That may make me sound smart and/or wise. Neither is particularly applicable. I count that as a blessing, because the great thing about wandering around in the fog is you never know what you might run into.
Thanks Billy! Look for an exclusive Q&A with Billy arising from my Book Club’s discussion of When Mockingbirds Sing, coming soon.