That Old Ace in the Hole

Annie Proulx

Some folks in the Texas panhandle do not like hog farms. But Bob Dollar, the newly-hired hog site scout for Global Pork Rind, intends to do his job. He is also determined not to turn out like his parents who left him on his Uncle Tam’s doorstep as a child, and afflicted by the tendency to believe his own daydreams – to the point of forgetting that he made them up in the first place.

Bob ends up in Woolybucket, a town whose idiosyncratic inhabitants have ridden out all manner of booms and busts in panhandle country-cattle ranching, tornadoes, dust storms, gas and oil days, feedlot proliferation. These tough men and women seem to grow stronger with age, seasoned by the rigours of their life, from ancient Freda Beautyrooms who controls a ranch Bob covets, to Ace Crouch, the windmiller who defies the hog farms. They aren’t the only obstacles in Bob’s path. As he settles in at La Von Fronk’s bunkhouse and lends a hand at Cy Frease’s Old Dog Café, Bob is forced to question everything.

With characteristic gusto and razor wit, Annie Proulx serves up a rich mix of history, landscape and quixotic Texan life in this novel about chasing dreams in a corporate world.

Reviews of That Old Ace in the Hole

  • ‘Proulx’s own ace in the hole is her brilliance at evoking place and landscape. She sets about drawing the vast distances and parched flatlands of Texas with almost immeasurable skill….reined in and muscular, unsentimental and unsparing about the toughness of rural life and the process of decay.’ Alex Clark, Guardian

    ‘Brilliantly written’. Peter Kemp, The Sunday Times

    ‘A kind-hearted and intelligent novel.’ The Telegraph

    ‘There’s any amount of Texas panhandle lore between these covers, lovingly passed on. It’s fascinating stuff…Proulx has a first class eye and ear.’ Adam Mars-Jones, Observer

    ‘The travels and travails of Bob Dollar, and his habit of asking garrlous locals to tell stories about the old days, allow her to build up a rich and many-layered portrait of the region. The reader gets to pluck the fruits of all that research and through the magic of her prose become engrossed in subjects like windmill repairs and the history of barbed wire.’ Richard Grant, Telegraph Magazine

    ‘Amusing, intriguing and disturbing.’ Mark Sanderson, Independent on Sunday

    ‘An absolute corker of a novel which manages the dual feat of being a serious satire on the evils of global capitalism, and a personal comedy of Dickensian dimensions.’ A N Wilson, Daily Telegraph

    ‘Sometimes the laughs are prompted by joyously well-jointed plot devices, or by Proulx’s small, absurd observations. As often as not, the humour comes from the unmistakable edginess and quirkiness of Proulx’s prose. It is hard to think of any living writer who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dickens, with the exception of Proulx.’ A N Wilson, New Statesman