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“My father started picking up all these articles on Franklin County,” says Bondurant, 41, “and there was a set of articles about the Bondurant boys, in quotations, talking about them as a notorious gang.
And there was this big article about the shoot-out at the bridge in December of 1930, where my grandfather was shot.” When Andrew confronted his father about the shooting, Jack simply admitted it.
It could have stayed that way; Jack would happily have taken the story to his grave. Jack died in 2001, and in 2008 Matt published a fictionalised version of the bloody events of his grandfather’s life, The Wettest County in the World, which has now been turned into the brutal half-western, half-gangster movie, Lawless, starring Shia La Beouf as Jack and Tom Hardy as Forrest.
Arriving there, their way is blocked by a car, beside which stand two sheriff’s deputies, Charley Rakes and Henry Abshire.
Neither is surprised to see the Bondurant boys – Jack, Forrest and Howard – making a morning delivery.
Rather than shy away from the brutality that seemed to surround his ancestors, Bondurant’s prose pulses with it.
Did he ever question the morality of what they did?
Bondurant couldn’t resist adding this piece of Grand Guignol to his novel.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with my grandfather and his brothers,” he says, “at least we don’t know that it did, but it happened.” What is also certain is that the “Bondurant filling station” was as infamous for drinking and violence as it was for moonshining.And a capacity for certain things, whether it’s breaking the law, or breaking another man’s face with a pair of brass knuckles.” Bondurant never got a chance to ask his grandfather about the details of this extraordinary period in his life.Too timid as a child, too distracted as a young adult, by the time he was seriously considering writing his grandfather’s story, Jack was dead.“I’d ride along with him in a truck for hours,” says Bondurant, “and we wouldn’t say a word. I knew he was somebody to be taken very seriously.” Bondurant also remembers a pair of rusty brass knuckles hanging from the gun rack in his grandfather’s utility room.“I don’t know if he ever used them,” says Bondurant.“But they were emblematic, part of his terrifying aspect.” Bondurant admits to being thrilled when he discovered that the latent violence he’d sensed as a child could be fleshed out with a dramatic, bloody, real-life history. “Up until then I, like most people, thought our lives were quite dull and our family was full of nice, respectable people.” Jack may not have been a storyteller, but his grandson is.