The Wettest County in the World

by Matt Bondurant


New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice

A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year

An Indie Next Selection

Adapted into the feature film LAWLESS starring Shia LeBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jessica Chastain, directed by John Hillcoat

"Bondurant writes fiercely and passionately…We are aware from the first page that we are in the hands of a remarkable storyteller."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Bondurant is a nimble writer... [His] prose is lyrical... who can deny the power of a narrative so deeply rooted in childhood imaginings?"
The New York Times Book Review

“An utterly engaging fable of bootlegging, revenge, and remorse… Bondurant will be compared to Cormac McCarthy. It's warranted: Both have a gift for describing brutality so clearly that we see beauty in the honesty.”
Men’s Journal

About the Book

Based on the true story of Matt Bondurant’s grandfather and two granduncles, The Wettest County in the World is a gripping tale of brotherhood, greed, and murder. The Bondurant Boys were a notorious gang of roughnecks and moonshiners who ran liquor through Franklin County, Virginia, during Prohibition and in the years after. Howard, the eldest brother, is an ox of a man besieged by the horrors he witnessed in the Great War; Forrest, the middle brother, is fierce, mythically indestructible, and the consummate businessman; and Jack, the youngest, has a taste for luxury and a dream to get out of Franklin. Driven and haunted, these men forge a business, fall in love, and struggle to stay afloat as they watch their family die, their father's business fail, and the world they know crumble beneath the Depression and drought.

White mule, white lightning, firewater, popskull, wild cat, stump whiskey, or rotgut—whatever you called it, Franklin County was awash in moonshine in the 1920s. When Sherwood Anderson, the journalist and author of Winesburg, Ohio, was covering a story there, he christened it the “wettest county in the world.” In the twilight of his career, Anderson finds himself driving along dusty red roads trying to find the Bondurant brothers, piece together the clues linking them to “The Great Franklin County Moonshine Conspiracy,” and break open the silence that shrouds Franklin County. 

In vivid, muscular prose, Matt Bondurant brings these men—their dark deeds, their long silences, their deep desires—to life. His understanding of the passion, violence, and desperation at the center of this world is both heartbreaking and magnificent.

About the Author

Matt Bondurant's first novel The Third Translation (Hyperion 2005) was an international bestseller, translated into 16 languages worldwide. His second novel The Wettest County in the World (Scribner 2008) was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, and the basis for the feature film LAWLESS directed by John Hillcoat. His third novel, The Night Swimmer (Scribner 2010) was described as “unforgettable” by the San Francisco Chronicle and compared to Cheever and Borges by the New York Times. Matt’s short fiction has appeared in Prairie SchoonerThe New England Review, Glimmer Train, and the anthology Dallas Noir. He is an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Dallas, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Other Books

The Night Swimmer: A Novel
The Third Translation