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The Deadening: A Novel by Jim Beane


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$15.95 postage free when ordered from Dryad Press by Oct. 1, 2024

A co-publication of Mandel Vilar Press and Dryad Press — Pub date: Nov 4, 2024
ISBN: 9781942134947; Paper with flaps; xii + 160 pp, 5-3/8 x 7-1/2

Ebook $9.99 | ISBN: 9781942134954

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The Deadening is the story of two young veterans who have returned
from the soul-destroying trenches of WWI —
this novel speaks to us as much today as it did then.

       Set in 1921, Harrell Hickman and Willem Redd have returned home from the brutality of trench warfare in the no man’s land of France. The two grew up in different parts of the country — Hickman in Baltimore, Redd in a small Nebraskan town. Neither has been able to resume what they were or might have been, having survived the madness of bodies blown up and the overwhelming deaths from machine gun fire, poisonous gas, mortars, and grenades day after day after day.  

       Back in the U.S., Hickman walks away from an overcrowded veteran’s hospital where he has been hospitalized for what British field doctors called “shell shock,” a devastating psychological impact that now goes under the benign abstraction of PTSD. Harrell has no family to return to, no ties to any community — his ability to cope largely depends on alcohol and laudanum, neither of which can calm the voices he has become a victim of. Hopping freight trains west, he ends up in Wisdom, the small Nebraskan town where he encounters Willem Redd, who survived severe wounds and was hospitalized at Walter Reed, before being able to return to his family.

      Redd is married with children, has become the owner of his father’s mercantile in Wisdom, Nebraska, and resumes serving as sheriff for the territory, despite having lost an arm and an eye in battle. Unlike Hickman, he has support from his family and a community, though he too has been irreparably damaged.

       Hickman goes to work for a rancher, John Conover — however, a violent altercation with one of Conover’s hired cowboys results in Hickman’s firing, Conover is later forced to rehire Hickman to prepare the ranch for winter, and has him working with his son Israel.  The dramatic confrontations and murders that unfold have the semblance of foreordained Greek tragedy.


While Jim Beane has published more than a score of short stories, The Deadening is his first novel. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in the Maryland suburbs, he attended the US Coast Guard Academy, the University of Maryland, and graduated from York College in 1975. He has been a laborer, dishwasher, painter, electrician, shirt salesman, bartender, forklift driver, and teacher. For thirty-five years he worked carpentry by day, writing stories on nights and weekends. His short story collection, By the Sea, by the Sea was published in 2019 by Wordrunners eChapbooks. “Ocean View” appeared in Worker’s Write, winner of the 2017 Tillie Olsen Award for creative writing. Jim has been an instructor in creative writing at The Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD) and as the creative writing instructor for the Armed Services Arts Partnerships program affiliated with the Center. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife Mary Ellen and family.