Thomas Mullen: The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers
Robbing banks, stealing hearts
Atlanta-based writer Thomas Mullen set his critically lauded first novel, The Last Town on Earth, in the Pacific Northwest during the terrible Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. From the 90-years-past reality he invokes in the evergreen mists of Washington, he clearly researches as well as he writes. Mullen also had an uncanny prescience—H1N1 was just a series of random letters and numbers when he released his frightening account of a world dying in a flu plague.
This new novel gives us the Fireson Brothers, popularly known as the Firefly Brothers, who roam the Midwest robbing banks during the Great Depression. The Fireflies have a habit of getting killed during their capers but, like characters from a Flann O’Brien work, they refuse to stay dead. They wake up in morgues or in the beds of vehicles on the way to hospitals and make their getaways.
Mullen writes with great brio, and the world he conjures can be hilarious, hideous and hearkening—much here feels like the American underbelly in our current economic downturn.