The Bully of Order: A Novel
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Set in a logging town on the lawless Pacific coast of Washington State at the turn of the twentieth century, a spellbinding novel of fate and redemption—told with a muscular lyricism and filled with a cast of characters Shakespearean in scope—in which the lives of an ill-fated family are at the mercy of violent social and historical forces that tear them apart.
Keen to make his fortune, Jacob Ellstrom, armed with his medical kit and new wife, Nell, lands in The Harbor—a mud-filled, raucous coastal town teeming with rough trade pioneers, sawmill laborers, sailors, and prostitutes. But Jacob is not a doctor, and a botched delivery exposes his ruse, driving him onto the streets in a plunge towards alcoholism. Alone, Nell scrambles to keep herself and their young son, Duncan, safe in this dangerous world. When a tentative reunion between the couple—in the company of Duncan and Jacob’s malicious brother, Matius—results in tragedy, Jacob must flee town to elude being charged with murder.
Years later, the wild and reckless Duncan seems to be yet another of The Harbor’s hoodlums. His only salvation is his overwhelming love for Teresa Boyerton, the daughter of the town’s largest mill owner. But disaster will befall the lovers with heartbreaking consequences.
And across town, Bellhouse, a union boss and criminal rabble-rouser, sits at the helm of The Harbor’s seedy underbelly, perpetuating a cycle of greed and violence. His thug Tartan directs his pack of thieves, pimps, and murderers, and conceals an incendiary secret involving Duncan’s mother. As time passes, a string of calamitous events sends these characters hurtling towards each other in an epic collision that will shake the town to its core.
with him. Bellhouse wanted Duncan on the spit to leverage against the remainders of the Boyerton clan. Martyrdom had not been ruled out. But hauling up a strike against a one-eyed teenager and his mother seemed in a general way to be a waste of time. Tartan cared less about the millworkers than he did about the sailors. Failure looked like a better option, let things continue as they were. It wasn’t about dominance, no matter what Bellhouse thought. Who wanted the pig if you got chops for free
her in grain sacks.” She stopped and held me by the arm. “I wasn’t serious.” “Yes, you were. All of you are so awful and callous. I can’t stand it.” I took her hand and leaned over to kiss her cheek, but she leaned away from me, away, like she was a block plane and I the wood and the blade wasn’t set or it was dull and she just slid over me without the satisfying peel. I needed her to take something, to lock in. I was hers. We went quietly through the darkened streets under a cloud-sneaking
the shoddy wharf, bent nails pounded flat like drowned worms. We’d been traveling for over a month, and we were finally and completely sick of it all and each other. I nodded, ignored her. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The bastards hadn’t even finished logging the streets or any of it. I’d never seen such a mess. The trash we’d passed on the Hoquiam was no better or worse. Town versus encampment versus battlefield. In contrast, a gold camp would be the peak of urbanity. It looked like something
him the whole time. Wind blew in the open window and I curled into my blanket. Bellhouse appeared from a door I hadn’t noticed in the back. Delilah followed him, dressed in a red silk robe. Her bare feet were fascinating. I didn’t hear Tartan sneaking up on me. He kicked me in the ass and stole my blanket, then clamped a hand on my neck and dragged me to the table and sat me down. “Flea bite,” Bellhouse said to me when I sat down. “Poor thing,” Delilah said. “How’s yer head?” She touched my
bashed my shin. I kept going, but slower, used my hands so I didn’t slip as I traversed the cold boulders. My coat was up ahead in a pocket of slow water, and without hesitating I waded in and hauled it out. The walk home to the fire and warmth was, like the near drowning, elongated by the cold. I’d be drying out for the rest of the day. Things were never as bad when you knew they would end. Unfamiliar boot tracks crossed my way three times, like I’d been flanked and flanked again. Someone was