Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How the Hangman Lost His Heart by K.M. Grant

A few years ago I had the pleasure of hearing K.M. Grant speak at the Texas Library Conference. She was promoting her first book Blood Red Horse which I believe made the Lone Star List that year. She was an absolute hoot, a totally engaging public speaker. She was funny, had great stories, and her family history was wild to say the least. In particular she shared a story about one of her ancestors who had been hanged and beheaded. His head never buried with his body, but passed down from generation to generation and taken out at dinner parties as a conversation piece. It was side splitting. When they finally decide to dig up the ancestor's coffin and reunite his long seperated body and head, much to their surprise they discovered a second head! It's this outrageous bit of family history that she's used as the basis for her new book. Alice is distraught when her favorite uncle is declared a traitor, hanged, disembowled, and beheaded. His head displayed for all to see on a spike. Alice decides she'll never be able to live with herself if she doesn't reunite his head to be buried along with his body. And so the adventure begins.

How the Hangman Lost His Heart can only be described as a madcap romp. It's over the top silly and nonsensical and is just a whole bunch of fun. But for all that, it doesn't shy away for the gory details. A few quotes that made me giggle:

When describing Alice's aunt Ursula:
"To take her mind off her brother-in-law's execution, Ursula had been tying
pink-and-green ribbons in her bright yellow wig and the effect was, to say the
least, unfortunate."

When talking to Uncle Frank post-beheading:
"It felt odd to be addressing a disembodied head, but not as odd as she
thought it might."

When Dan the hangman addresses Grandma's refusal to pay for services rendered:
' "They do their job," said Dan, still unforgiving. "Do you know, sometimes
they're given oatmeal instead of silver as their pay?" He peered out the window
too. "And some of them don't even like oatmeal," he hissed very close to Alice's

I couldn't help thinking as I read that this would make a terrific movie. The writing was extremely visual and it would transfer easily into a slapstick type comedy. You could take dialogue verbatim from the book and it would be fantastic. It even comes complete with a bittersweet sweet romance. My one complaint is with the cover. Why did they change from the British cover? Its really cute and I personally find it more apealing.


joanna said...

British cover is much better. So was this what you left Kerry and me to go read? Hm?

Patti said...

Ha! It was actually. I finished it soon after I got home.