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The Dark Corner

A Novel

Mark Powell

Publication Year: 2012

“The best Appalachian novelist of his generation.”
—Ron Rash, author of Serena and The Cove
"The Dark Corner is one of the most riveting and beautifully written novels that I have ever read.  Trouble drives the story, as it does in all great fiction, but grace, that feeling of mercy that all men hunger for, is the ultimate subject, and that's just part of the reason that Mark Powell is one of America's most brilliant writers."
—Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff
“Mark Powell’s third novel powerfully tackles the ongoing curses of drugs, real estate development, veterans’ plights, and other regional cultural banes that plague an Appalachia still very much alive and with us as its own chameleon-like animal. Brimming with fury and beauty, The Dark Corner is a thing wrought to be feared and admired.”
—Casey Clabough, author of Confederado

“Powell’s work is so clearly sourced to the wellspring of all spiritual understanding—this physical world…He is heir to the literary lineage of Melville, Conrad, Flannery O’Connor, Denis Johnson, and Robert Stone.”
—Pete Duval, author of Rear View

A troubled Episcopal priest and would-be activist, Malcolm Walker has failed twice over—first in an effort to shock his New England congregants out of their complacency and second in an attempt at suicide. Discharged from the hospital and haunted by images of the Iraq War and Abu Ghraib, he heads home to the mountains of northwestern South Carolina, the state’s “dark corner,” where a gathering storm of private grief and public rage awaits him.
    Malcolm’s life soon converges with people as damaged in their own ways as he is: his older brother, Dallas, a onetime college football star who has made a comfortable living in real-estate development but is now being drawn ever more deeply into an extremist militia; his dying father, Elijah, still plagued by traumatic memories of Vietnam and the death of his wife; and Jordan Taylor, a young, drug-addicted woman who is being ruthlessly exploited by Dallas’s viperous business partner, Leighton Clatter. As Malcolm tries to restart his life, he enters into a relationship with Jordan that offers both of them fleeting glimpses of heaven, even as hellish realities continue to threaten them.
    In The Dark Corner, Mark Powell confronts crucial issues currently shaping our culture: environmentalism and the disappearance of wild places, the crippling effects of wars past and present, drug abuse, and the rise of right-wing paranoia. With his skillful plotting, feel for place, and gift for creating complex and compelling characters, Powell evokes a world as vivid and immediate as the latest news cycle, while at the same time he offers a nuanced reflection on timeless themes of violence, longing, redemption, faith, and love.

MARK POWELL is the author of two previous novels published by the University of Tennessee Press, Prodigals and the Peter Taylor Prize–winning Blood Kin. The recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and Breadloaf Writers’ Conference fellowships, as well as the Chaffin Award for fiction, he is an assistant professor of English at Stetson University.

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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The parish elders approached him....

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pp. 1-7

The parish elders approached him on a Friday in early December, just as he knew they eventually would. Malcolm Walker had woken early that day, climbed from bed, and left the parsonage, spreading salt like birdseed, the sun barely over the treetops and the roads sheeted in ice. ...

Part One

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pp. 9-50

He woke miles from the sun, at sea, again, and chasing a dawn that cut along the horizon like light beneath a door. Woke early because this was the time one might be alone with the dark, for—he realized this as he rose from the musty recliner and walked toward the front windows that opened over the porch ...

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pp. 51-90

At some point you had to get out. You had to get out, she thought, or it killed you. But that wasn’t true. That was what Roosevelt would have referred to as one of her theatrical responses, her failure to exist beyond the performative, the reenactment of old wrongs, the slings and arrows and all-around bad shit laid on her by her nana. ...

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pp. 91-134

What was left of the snow melted in the shallow pools that surrounded the El Shaddai Temple of the Holy Ghost. Malcolm was late—the sound of singing came through the cinder block walls—but that was a good thing; he didn’t want to speak to anyone. To be here was enough. They would see him. They would know. ...

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pp. 135-159

Dallas took a drink of Johnnie Walker from his Nalgene bottle and watched the land slide by, the massive billboards staked in pastures, cloud shadows that lumbered across yellowed grass. The meeting was in the Sunshine Diner in the parking lot of the old K-Mart building in Anderson and the goddamn cows had him nervous, ...

Part Two

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pp. 161-198

After the rains the summer grew shaggy with heat and in the evenings Malcolm sat alone on the porch while Jordan meditated upstairs. Three weeks had passed since she moved her scant belongings into the Winter House, and they settled into a life, an easy routine of working in the yard and eating dinner on the back porch. ...

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pp. 199-244

She knew several churches were running buses from the Shaver Center to the Chellis rally in Greenville, and she climbed onto one and collapsed into a seat, the Ativan just beginning to reach through her like long fingers, delicate and cold. A man and woman—white man, white woman—leaned into the aisle to talk to her and she said something back, ...

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pp. 245-270

The room smelled of Lysol and Malcolm raised windows and washed the bedsheets. The old man was down to the Ativan and a single can of Glucerna split between two feedings, that and a few squirts of Pedialyte taken from a sports bottle. He had diminished for weeks but now seemed arrested on the edge of dying, occupying some point just short of erasure. ...

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pp. 271-305

Early on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, Dallas pulled into the yard, his pontoon hitched to the truck and loaded with fishing tackle. In the bed of the Dodge was a forty-liter Igloo secured with two bungee cords. He had iced two cases of Coors and a carton of Ripped Fuel, and packed a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue in the truck box. ...

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p. 306

Heartfelt thanks to: Gene Adair, Amy Blackmarr, Alex Boldizar, Rand Brandes and the visiting writer program at Lenoir-Rhyne College, Craig Brandhorst, George Brosi and everyone at Appalachian Heritage, Casey Clabough, Beverly Coyle, Johnny Damm, Spencer Deck, Chris Doucot, Pete Duval, the Reverend Dr. Art Farlowe, ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781572339309
E-ISBN-10: 1572339306
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572339187
Print-ISBN-10: 1572339187

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 813844858
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Dark Corner

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mountain life -- Fiction.
  • Environmentalism -- Fiction.
  • Right-wing extremists -- Fiction.
  • Drug abuse -- Fiction.
  • North Carolina -- Fiction.
  • South Carolina -- Fiction.
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