Far Beyond the Pale by Daren Dean

finished cover

In this darkly comic novel Nathan “Honey Boy” Kimbrough narrates a boy’s search for a father and his mother’s search for a “good man” in the mid-1970s. Honey Boy is a thirteen-year-old, four-letter-spouting, pistol-packing kid who is determined to learn something about the art of thieving swag from Kingdom County’s own resident outlaw: Vaughn, a man so wicked that he is gone beyond the pale in his outrageous acts which include ransacking homes, stealing livestock, and intimidating his neighbors. Ultimately, he falls under the tutelage of Vaughn, a natural born killer with the conscience of a sociopath. What follows is a conclusion so violent that even Vaughn might wonder if he hasn’t done his job too well. Vigilantes in Fairmont surround the outlaw at his favorite tavern with deer rifles and revolvers drawn in a modern southern novel with an explosive climax.

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“In FAR BEYOND THE PALE Daren Dean grandly and seamlessly joins terror and tenderness, gravity and sublime lightness, and he does so through the narrative voice of a boy so endearingly and vulnerably real that he turns into lost kin you keep worrying about long after the book has been put down. Dean writes like the laureate of fallen angels. He is an important new voice in our literary culture.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of The Empire of Night, The Star of Istanbul, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

“Daren Dean shoots from the hip and his characters follow his example. Alive with language, FAR BEYOND THE PALE makes you feel like you’re sitting in the back of the car with the windows down, listening to the cast wonder about what comes next, and you slap on your seat belt to make sure you are safe for the raucous ride.” -Michael Farris Smith, author of RIVERS

“The torch that fell when we lost Harry Crews and Larry Brown has been upraised by many, but in the hands of Daren Dean that sacred flame burns with a new and brilliant fire. FAR BEYOND THE PALE is Grit Lit pure true. For those of us who love it, Dean perfectly packs double-barrels of violence and linguistic verve. And more, I was enraptured by the incendiary-round trajectories of Dean’s characters–luminous arcs ending in cataclysm.” -Kent Wascom, author of The Blood of Heaven

“The next time you pull into a Missouri town and think for a minute that there’s no one worth saving and nothing’s going on, you’ll hark back to this novel and the heartbreaking story of Honey Boy and his desperately lovely Mama. And then you’ll cry a lonesome river. Go on. I dare you.” -Steve Yates, author of Some Kinds of Love: Stories, Morkan’s Quarry, and its sequel, The Teeth of the Souls.

“Daren Dean writes in the school of Larry Brown, Harry Crews, Tom Franklin, and William Gay. His fiction is funny, deep, ironic, and just twisted enough to hold a reader tight. The publisher that gets him will be lucky. Dean writes about people who have real problems, who know stock cars but not stock markets, who have no trust accounts but may have problems trusting their mate, who don’t have bank accounts but know to bank a fire in the fireplace. His characters carry guns and their son’s carry guns. In his novel, a kid grows up, the mean grow meaner, and we come to care about what happens in this Missouri town that could be just over the next rise from Faulkner’s famous Jefferson, Mississippi.” Clyde Edgerton, Author of Raney, The Bible Salesman, The Night Train…

Daren Dean’s visionary narrative gifts present Nat Kimbrough, star student in the proverbial School of Hard Knocks, the same one attended by Mark Twain’s Huck Finn and Charles Portis’s Mattie Ross. Nat is a reluctant native son of the dicey “Little Dixie” culture of eastern Missouri, but his young voice is authentic, even incandescent, as he navigates the moral breach between country-smart criminality and the pentecostalisms of kinfolk, not a damn one of whom seems to have Nat’s best interests at heart. This boy’s soul is heavy-laden with corrosive knowledge of adults that no kid should have to bear, but it’s a hard, crabbed grace he finds his way toward. Beginning now, Dean owns some serious literary real estate in the backcountry of Missouri, the way Larry Brown owned the back roads of Mississippi, and the way Daniel Woodrell owns certain environs near the Arkansas line. –Cynthia Shearer, The Wonder Book of the Air, The Celestial Jukebox


Daren Dean’s fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and interviews have appeared in The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Oklahoma Review, Midwestern Gothic, Ecotone, Aries: A Journal of Art and Literature, Fiction Southeast, Missouri Life, Image, Chattahoochee Review, StorySouth, and others. His story, “Affliction,” was a Finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Fiction Contest for New Writers in 2012. “Bring Your Sorrow Over Here” was selected as Runner-up in Yemassee’s William Richey Short Fiction contest by Judge George Singleton and appeared in the Spring 2012 issue. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Dean worked in scholarly publishing at the University of Missouri Press. Currently, he is with the English department at LSU in Baton Rouge where he teaches writing and literature. He lives in the Greater Baton Rouge area with his wife and their two children. Far Beyond the Pale (Fiction Southeast Press) is his first novel.