I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down
I happened upon the writing of William Gay by pure accident a few years ago. The local library was having a sale of old novels, and the title Provinces of Night caught my eye. I knew nothing about Gay, but the first page drew me in. That was 10p well spent!
Gay lived in Tennessee all his life and wrote very much in the Southern tradition of William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy - all writers who had influenced him. He was a working man for most of his life - a carpenter, drywall hanger and house-painter - and although he'd started writing when he was fifteen, he was in his late fifties before he had anything published. His first book was a collection of brilliant short stories, I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down - the title story of which was his first ever published work. These are fine tales, covering the dark and twisty territory of the human emotional landscape. I've just started re-reading them now, and it's like rediscovering a half-forgotten treasure.
Later, Gay turned more towards the novel form, with The Long Home and Provinces of Night. The latter was made into a decent film, Bloodworth, starring Kris Kristofferson and Val Kilmer. I didn't realise, though, that a film had been made of that first short story. Again, I found it by accident after typing his name into a YouTube search. The film is here, and free to view (Bloodworth is also available). Worth two hours of anyone's time. Hal Holbrook gives a fabulous performance. He was 84 at the time he made it.
Sadly, Gay died in 2012, aged seventy. But the few books he wrote stamped his name large in the catalogue of Southern literature.