Damnation Falls

Edward Wright

Minotaur Books

Randall Wilkes, his big-city journalism career in ruins, has returned after twenty years to Pilgrim’s Rest, the Tennessee hill town where he grew up. He has taken on a lucrative but low-prestige writing job for Sonny McMahan, a former governor and Randall’s boyhood friend, whose own career is under a shadow and who needs a ghost-written autobiography to ease his way back into politics. Randall encounters Faye McMahan, Sonny's mother, who is addled with age, imagining that her dead husband is alive and worrying that her son might be in danger. Hours later, amid a violent autumn storm, Randall finds Faye murdered, hanging by the neck from a bridge over the town landmark called Damnation Falls. Within days, a second murder, even more grisly than the first, targets another member of the McMahan clan. And the bones of a third, long-buried murder victim –a young woman—emerge from the earth.
         Randall has ties to all the victims, and the murders force him to acknowledge debts that go back decades. Drawing on his investigative skills and his roots in the region, he sets out to discover who is behind the killings. His search takes him from the flatlands of the Mississippi delta to the Great Smoky Mountains in the east. Tennessee is a state that was split by the Civil War, where history still lies close to the surface, and tales of murder and betrayal have weighed heavily on the town of Pilgrim's Rest. Before all the answers are in, more people will die, an old score will be settled, and the dead will finally tell their stories.


Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

ALL through my growing-up, my father and I would sometimes explore the woods around our small Tennessee town, Pilgrim’s Rest. Once, when I was eleven, I turned up a brass button. It was badly worn and tarnished, but I could make out the faint CSA on it.

My father held it in his hand and looked at it for a long time. Being of the South and steeped in its history, I didn’t need to be told that the letters stood for Confederate States of America and that the button had come from a Southern soldier’s uniform. I knew that no battles had been fought there in


Praise for Damnation Falls

Damnation Falls is a wonderful novel, saturated in secrets and memories. Edward Wright understands that the best stories come from that place where history and truth collide. I finished this book already eager for his next.”--Michael Koryta, author of Sorrow’s Anthem and Welcome Grave

Imagine if Pete Dexter, the best writer on journalism, got together with Joe Lansdale to write the ultimate P.I. novel and an exposition of the New South, you'd have...Damnation Falls. Never was a novel so aptly titled or beautifully and heartbreakingly rendered.”--Ken Bruen, author of The Guards, The Dramatist, and Priest

"Reading Damnation Falls is as pleasurable as sipping a smooth bourbon on the front porch while watching the fireflies come out on a fine summer evening. It is a superb tale with intriguing characters and a vivid sense of place."--Dan Fesperman, author of The Amateur Spy, The Prisoner of Guantanamo, and The Warlord’s Son

“You'll smell, hear and feel the landscape and people of the Tennessee hills long after you've finished Damnation Falls, Edward Wright's absorbing tale of a disgraced journalist's return back home.  His redemptive search for truth will take you through a valley of human bones, the intersection of politics and corporate shenanigans, Civil War history and the tender memory of first love.  Highly recommended for readers who love mysteries which masterfully mix past crimes with the present.”--Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award winning author of Snakeskin Shamisen

"Edward Wright's Damnation Falls takes a fascinating look at the conflict between tradition and progress in eastern Tennessee. The story maintains a nice balance between character development and suspense, and makes for a very satisfying read."--P.T. Deutermann, author of The Cat Dancers, Spider Mountain, and The Moonpool


Reviews from Goodreads



  • Edward Wright

  • EDWARD WRIGHT, author of the John Ray Horn mystery series, is the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger Award, the Shamus Award, and the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Cathy.
  • Edward Wright Photo: Jennifer Leshnick





    Available Formats and Book Details

    Damnation Falls

    Edward Wright

    • e-Book



    Minotaur Books