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207: Lawless with Matt Bondurant (Remastered)

This episode was originally released on August 28, 2017. This is a remastered version of that interview.

Matt Bondurant joins us today episode as we compare what really happened with the movie Lawless. Matt’s grandfather, Jack, and two grand-uncles that were the inspiration for his book that the movie is based on, The Wettest County in the World.

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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Dan LeFebvre  02:00

This week, I’m super excited to be joined by Matt Bondurant. Matt is the author of The Wettest County in the World, the book that was adapted into the movie Lawless and tells the story of his grandfather, Jack Bondurant, as well as his two grand uncles, Forrest and Howard. Thanks so much for your time, Matt.


Matt Bondurant  02:16

Sure. No problem. Glad to be here.


Dan LeFebvre  02:19

Now, before we started chatting about Lawless, I actually want to ask you about your last name because I might have already mispronounced it. I know in the movie they actually pronounce it a few different ways Bondur-ant, Bondur-int, Bounder-int…how do you pronounce your last name?


Matt Bondurant  02:31

You say Bondurant. But yeah, but but a lot of people will Franklin County say bonds aren’t they sort of, they kind of alluded to last a little quicker bonds aren’t. And so it’s really confusing because my my father left Franklin County as when he joined the Navy. And so they kind of in Northern Virginia, the northern pronunciation is bond around but down in Franklin County, there’s a boundary. And then the movie. Of course they had you know, you have a bunch of English and Australian people trying to say that. So that’s what happens.


Dan LeFebvre  03:05

I want to talk about the the title of the book, because in the beginning Shia LaBeouf who plays Jack, your grandfather has a voiceover that mentions Franklin County is known as the wettest county in the world, which is also the title of your book. So was that something that was actually that Franklin County was actually known for back then? Or was that something that filmmakers was kind of working into add in the title of your book?


Matt Bondurant  03:28

that was a name, or a title that was given to the county. The first known reference that I could find to it was from the writer Sherwood Anderson, who plays a pretty big role in the book. He’s not in the movie at all. But in the book is pretty rolling. And he wrote an article for a magazine. And when he was sort of investigating the great moonshine conspiracy of Franklin County moonshine conspiracy of 1935, which, and he wrote, you know, in the sentence, he says, you know, where they’re producing more alcohol, they play Celts, the wettest county in the world is finally Virginia. And then that kind of stuck, and, frankly, has been known as the wettest County in America for a long time, you know, and it’s, it’s kind of a dubious distinction, I guess. But it’s a it’s something that pretty well known and that especially that part of the state.


Dan LeFebvre  04:21

So the movie actually takes place in 1931. That is that basically the right timeframe for the events or is the I know a lot of times in movies, the timeframe, they change that, or is that pretty accurate?


Matt Bondurant  04:34

It’s slightly it’s slightly adjusted. For example, the the incidents at maggoty Creek Bridge where my grandfather and his brothers get shot, you know, that which is this climax of the film. That was December of 1930. But it’s right around there in within the book too, because it’s a fictionalization of the true story. I compare Some events, you know a little bit and adjusted some things trying to kind of put the narrative together in a kind of a more seamless fashion. But, but it’s basically very close. The other thing I’ll say, from the onset is there’s a lot of the incidents, except for things like the shooting, because that was something that was reported, obviously, in court transcripts and in the newspaper. Everything else, you know, relatively unrecorded, you know, hard to find is in terms of specific dates or times and things like that. So there was, which is great for me as a novelist as luck flexibility, so I can work it in but no, I think that the film does a pretty good job. The book actually takes place over a number of years. It goes all the way to 1935. And it even has some big some shots. Well, in the very beginning of the movie, there was another young boys, it’s like 1970 that in the hog pen, you know, that’s, that starts off like the book does. So it’s like the, the brothers are young. And then it leaps forward to when they’re older. When the book does that, mostly, there’s a few other moments that are kind of skipped. But But yeah, you know, basically the timing time periods right there.


Dan LeFebvre  06:11

I like that. You mentioned that a lot of it was undocumented because that kind of leads right into my next question, which is about the characters and I know there’s a lot of characters that we know are real, like your ancestors as well as Floyd banner and they mentioned Al Capone, but then you have some kind of secondary characters like I know the guy that jackin or even cricket you know that Jack and cricket take the moonshine to gummy wall she kind of in associated fluid manner couldn’t find anything about that doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t exist I just couldn’t find any in the research I was doing before this but what do you think about the characters? Were there a lot of them that were made up for the movie or were there some of them that they were actual, we just didn’t know about that you uncovered in your research?


Matt Bondurant  06:54

Well, people like Jeremy Walsh, for example. He’s he is a kind of a a made up or a composite character, maybe that’s a guy that’s a character that I created to kind of give somebody to work with Jack and things like that. And the Cricut the Cricut pate is, is again also a kind of a composite. There was a there was a guy named Cricut back then, and he was very handy with machines. I don’t know what his last name was. And his his relationship with the Baader Ronson general is kind of an unruly unknown. It’s not really sure how if you know him and Jack were best buddies or anything like that. That’s something again, I sort of added in the Jessica Chastain character, for example, that that is it. That is a character that Maggie’s a real person, you know, ended up with my granduncle forest, they were together for years and actually secretly married at some point and so she’s a real person. And as you mentioned, like the foot banner who he’s based on a, on a sort of more local Kingpin, let’s say moonshine king pin that operated in West Virginia and Virginia, with the last name of Floyd, the last thing so that the movie guys did is they kind of adjusted those slightly. They also they they made Floyd banner, like more clearly, like from Chicago, you know, this kind of city thing. And the same goes for Charlie RAIKES, probably the biggest transformation that the movie made from my book. And because in the book, I tried to stay as close to the real person, Charlie RAIKES, as we know him and Charlie RAIKES was a Franklin County local. He was you know, Sheriff, but he wasn’t he was known. They all knew each other. These guys, which is one of the reasons why they made it really curious for me, because the historical record is clear that you know, in December 1930 in that bridge, Charlie RAIKES really wanted to kill all those brothers and we’re not really know when he said some things, some which which are recorded in court transcripts, which are in the book and in the in the film,


Dan LeFebvre  09:03

but it wasn’t like he was from Chicago and didn’t know them before. He he knew them. It sounds like almost all their life if he was local. Yeah.


Matt Bondurant  09:11

Yeah. I mean, we don’t know the extent of it, but it’s most likely they’ve known each other because they’re both from this, you know, relatively small area. But like he like threatened them. And you know, he’s he headlines like, I thought you violence or hardboiled SON OF A BITCH is like that’s in the court transcripts. And then that, you know, they put that into the, the film and I and I, early on in the discussions with John Hill code, um, Nick Cave, the director and screenwriter that they wanted to accentuate the, you know, the conflict between Charlie RAIKES and the brothers and by making him an outsider, a kind of a city person, and that kind of thing just kind of exacerbates, makes the just makes the distinction between them. And he’s more of a much more clear villain, because the real Charlie RAIKES is not a real clear villain, and it’s really, you know, unusual and I devote You know, a fair amount of time to him in the book trying to kind of come to an understanding on a possible understanding, plausible understanding of why he might, you know, come to have developed this great animosity to a degree that he wanted to basically shoot them all down. You know, it almost basically in cold blood.


Dan LeFebvre  10:22

Wow. What about the other characters as far as their personality? Do you think the movie did a pretty good job of kind of portraying the personalities of what not only the brothers but also it sounds like they made some changes with Charlie, but the other characters as well?


Matt Bondurant  10:37

Yeah. They stuck pretty close to the book other than other than Charlie RAIKES, they stuck pretty close to the book. And the thing about the thing about the book, The, for example, that the personality somebody like Howard, the brother, Howard, you know, he has some surviving relatives, but to do nobody that could tell us what Howard was like, in 1930, you know, and saved us because we’re all the brothers. And so it was difficult to kind of formulate, you know, I had to go off of some things that I knew about them that they had done. And a lot of the character formation was done from these court transcripts where, you know, I heard you get to hear Forrest, for example, say various things. Yeah, he says to one of the sheriff’s deputies, in court transcripts, he says, We know, somebody’s going to die, unless you let us cross this bridge, stuff like that these kind of threats, you know, so what I did is I took something like that, plus the fact that he was shot and survived to just throw, cut, survive, you get a load of lumber, drop that on, and he survived all these things. And, and also, because he was clearly the leader of the group that I took, like those elements and created a personality from that, you know, to be. And the same goes with Howard, you know, you know, Howard Howard, for example, one of the sort of great telling details, in the core transcripts that I found about Howard was that we know, he showed up at that shooting late and, and they said he was apparently drunk. So here we have the older brother, you know, the oldest brother of the family. And at this pivotal moment, he shows up late and he’s drunk, you know, so. So he’s the guy that’s drunk and shows up late, you know, and that develops his character to some degree. And Jack, you know, Jack was a little different, cuz Jack was my grandfather, and I knew him. But I didn’t know him as an 18 year old boy. So I kind of had to go off of what I could know, it’s my dad and everything like that. And so it’s a tricky thing. And I think that the the film adaptation for the most part was was, you know, stuck to my interpretations or character sort of creations. Maggie, for example, to old basically a total mystery. No real record of her at all. So, you know, I was I was sort of free to, we know that she moved into that store with them and was working that store with him for a long time, apparently was kind of quiet or something like that. But there’s really so little to do off of that. So one of the things I did in the book, which didn’t make it into the film was that the the author Sherwood Anderson, his final novel, he wrote this button near the novel called Kitt, Brandon, and it’s based on this semi famous female moonshine her at the time that was running around. And, and so he created this kind of image of her and you know, she liked cars, and she liked nice clothes. Anyway, in the idea of being because I know that that this is, this is where it gets, you know, slightly postmodern maybe but I know that Anderson when he was investigating the the bond, Ron’s and the great moonshine conspiracy 1935, who, right after that, he writes his kit, Brandon novel that can Brandon novel was clearly inspired by many, there’s incidents in that novel that are kind of like the hundreds. So my thing was like, what if this kid Brandon character was modeled in part after this character, Maggie, so I kind of took a fictional person, you know, and brought it backwards into this. So the idea being that these are the kinds of games I like to play, they entertain me, pretty much nobody else but that if you if you had read Kitt, Brandon, for example, or if you knew anything about Sherwood Anderson, and then you read this novel, you would, what I’ve done is provide like a backstory for is not you know, that kind of thing. And so that that kind of helped create her, because, you know, none of these guys had letters, there was no diaries. There’s no I had very little to go on. It was like, court transcripts and a couple newspaper clippings, and then, you know, whatever, old timers that are still around, like my father, but of course, you know, when he was born 1932 So little, you know. So you know, there wasn’t much to go on very little to go on.


Dan LeFebvre  15:04

Was there anything to go on then kind of as how the tensions increased between the law and the brothers? Was that something that was in the courtroom trips? Or was that something to that you were going off of what you did have to in order to create the story? Yeah, there was


Matt Bondurant  15:20

a little bit of both. There was some developing tensions between the bond rod family that did the court transcripts make it clear that it was basically centered around these notions of granny fees or bribes that were paid and people were paying bribes in the bond rounds were not. That was a thorn in the side of the local law enforcement and it has lot to do with the Commonwealth attorney, man named Lee. They changed his name. In Virginia, they changed the name of the film because Lee family Virginia isn’t very old, sort of powerful family and they actually threatened legal action. But everybody knew that that Lee Commonwealth Attorney Lee was Cimino. He was the trial in 35 was a they were prosecuting him. That’s one of the great ironies for racketeering and all this stuff, you know, that he’d set up this big scheme. And a lot of the irony is a lot of these bootleggers and moonshiners, like my grandfather and his brothers were testifying against him. Of course, because you know, he was who was he got off. And, you know, he was acquitted. But everybody knew that he was the, you know, that he was thrown mastermind of this racketeering scheme, where basically, you know, basically, there was all this moonshine being made in the county and all over the place, and the cops knew about it, and like they’re representing the early parts of the film, or they’re delivering to the police and the police. So you know, that comes from a variety of known things going on at time, Franklin County, some historical record. Also, my own father remembers being a young boy and driving with his father. And they would make deliveries like, like a milk truck, they had run a jar up and put it on the doorstep. I mean, it was it was in the open and whatever. And everybody was doing fine. Everybody’s making a little money. And so Lee comes in Carter, Lee, Commonwealth attorney, Carter, Lee comes in basically and says, you know, seize an opportunity. He says, you know, you’re going to pay 20 bucks for every load or whatever. And we’re going to institute this county wide and get everybody on the same system. So it’s a classic kind of racketeering scheme. And the bond Ross didn’t want to go along with it. And there’s examples in the court transcripts of other other players, other people, other guys, who had, you know, interactions, altercations, who were sort of forced into it. They’re threatening to bond routes and a couple different occasions, things like that. And then it seems to culminate in this shooting now. So So for example, there are scenes like the the main scene word where Charlie rake shows up at the store the first time, and him and him in the forest have this sort of stare down and that kind of that, that that’s a that’s a wholly fabricated scene, that I’m trying to kind of convey what was probably a, you know, a longer, more subtle set of circumstances that that led to them at odds with each other. But it was it was certainly clear their historical record that that the bond REITs, didn’t want to pay or refuse to. And they felt they were kind of above this, they didn’t want to be controlled in this way in, in that December 1930. Basically, everybody else was playing along, except them. And that’s when they decided that they had to be, you know, put down. And, you know, one of the things I suggested, you know, the trailer breaks. One thing that irritates him is that the bond rounds have this kind of reputation, which is clear in the court to court transcripts, that people were afraid of them, that helped again, helped me create the characters, but people were clearly afraid of the bones, especially forest. And so, you know, got me thinking, Well, you know, you’re a sheriff’s deputy, you’re supposed to be the big man around the county, and you’re the law here. And you’ve got this group of guys that feel they’re above the law. And so he’s talking about how they, you know, they’re so tough, they can’t be a forest can’t be killed. On this starts to work on you a little bit. You get a little pissed off about that. And then And then, for example, there’s a book there’s a scene where at a sawmill because the monarch did run a sawmill to is where Charlie rakes shows up there and basically gets kind of humiliated, you know, by forest, and that sort of helped build that tension. And I think maybe that’s one the reasons why too, they switched it to the Guy Pearce sort of Chicago character because they needed to get to that quicker they couldn’t have these little like incidents, they needed to bring a guy in who was immediately at odds with Forrest, you know, so Maggie was


Dan LeFebvre  19:43

also apparently from Chicago in the movie as well as Charlie RAIKES, and they kind of mentioned this almost connection between Franklin and Chicago, which seems kind of odd to me that it’s like 100 and some miles away. Was that completely fabricated? Sounds like a lot of It was really just more local.


Matt Bondurant  20:02

It Yeah, Maggie was local. Yep. In Franklin County, he was with majority local. I think the connection is like a Hillcoat in particular was fascinated with that our classic ideas about the prohibition period, and, you know, Capone and and run running and that sort of angle of illegal spirits and stuff. And then there’s this Appalachian style. And so he wanted to contrast those to sort of do because because everybody’s familiar with the Capone, Chicago, prohibition gangsters and all that. And I think what he was the thought was cool was that, oh, he had this elaborate Appalachian style gangsters. And what if the two minutes, you know, like, what would be the clash between, but But it is true, though, that the amount of liquor that was being produced in Franklin County and some other areas of Appalachia, you know, was being transported to major cities, it was going to the city. So these guys would have, you know, a bootleggers in particular transport, people would have interactions with city folk. And there are numerous stories, anecdotes, and things that I’ve read and various accounts of, you know, guys in, in long coats, city, people clearly showing up with a fleet of cars, you know, in Franklin County, and, you know, mysteriously driving out in the middle of night, you know, so, I mean, they’re obviously coming in and picking up liquor so that there was dealings certainly between them. And I think that’s one of the things that I explored in the book that, you know, and it’s, it’s someone in the movie that prohibition caused this good cause the the making a moonshine really to go from a, a much more local tradition based activity, you know, into a money making machine, you know, it’s kind of like, you could equate it to some contemporary drug enterprises, you know, or something like that, like, as the creation of methamphetamine or something, I don’t know, whatever, and they’re, like, explodes and becomes really popular, it’s cheap, easy to make. So it was like, that kind of thing. And so that, that that was the, an interesting transformation for me, too, because I was trying to figure out why would the benefits be so like, what was there? And, you know, it’s because they had this long tradition of doing it this way. And nobody messed with them. And that’s the way they liked it. And, you know, and so, this outside influence was very, you know, bothersome and all that and, and I think the movie in particular, really wanted to play up on that, because that always, that always plays well, dramatically, the outsider coming in trying to change the ways of the, the regular folks kind of stuff, you know, so yeah, definitely.


Dan LeFebvre  22:41

And I think that scene where the, the two guys from Chicago, you know, the kind of the outsider coming in, in the scene with with forest where they cut his throat, that was just, I mean, that was Wow. And then it just kind of escalates from there. You know, you have tar and feathering and eventually killing, you know, cricket. And was that kind of back and forth. Was that something that actually happened?


Matt Bondurant  23:06

Those events occurred, but they they’re either either we don’t really know who did it or it’s most likely it was between competing factions. Cindy syndicates, maybe, you know, like, so there’ll be a sort of a Franklin County Syndicate, and then there’ll be something in Florida, neighboring counties would have their syndicates and then even West Virginia and so sometimes people would try to kind of come in and muscle each other out. But by 1930, the Sheriff’s Department under the direction of Carter Lee is starting to kind of muscle people and and push people around. Now the there’s a few notable examples, for example, in the 1935, like before Carter Lee went to trial. Charlie RAIKES, died very suspiciously right before the trial, along with a couple other guys that it’s got Henry Abshire who’s kind of in the book, and he’s kind of quarterly, he’s kind of trying to raise his partner, they cut him out entirely, but he was transporting a prisoner in the middle of the night, and he got shot to death and like a hail of bullets, like 20 bullets killed him in the prison or use transporting literally days before the trial. And these are the guys that would have testified against damning testimony against it. So the the point is, is that quarterly was clearly willing to use you know, for success of force to get these things done. So we have some evidence of of him doing that. But we also have a little bit of evidence in pushing people around. And then we also have the warring factions. Like, for example, force getting us through code, nobody knows who did that. There’s nobody was arrested for it. And the conjecture was back then and remains that it was a like a right either a rival gang, you know, like a group of guys that were like, we want to take over this business, or that they had come to, you know, effectively rob the place you know, come in and steal his booze and his money because I knew that that would this restaurant is waystation. And they do that in the in the in the movie, they show him kind of hiding his money in the walls and the compartment, you know, he’s kind of very careful. Because that way station would you know, when when the shipments were coming through, he might have, you know, hundreds and hundreds of dollars, a lot of money for that time. And so people would come in, then there’s also some conjecture that he that he got a circuit just in an altercation. He’s just they they gotta fight. But it wasn’t in the parking lot. Couple guys. And then there’s the whole, you know, walking to the hospital bit, which is what they say in the newspaper. You know, that’s what he said he did. That’s what he that’s all they know, he showed up at the hospital. Well, how’d you get here I walked in, and it was like 10 miles, you know, it’s crazy distance. doesn’t really make sense to me. That helped you absolutely develop the kind of legend and but one of the things that I wanted to do, which is the movie, the book, and it’s also in the movie was a a realist, and you know, the idea of him while you know, walking, holding your neck together, whatever, for losing that much blood for 10 miles in the snow, just not real plausible. So something else happened there. And so I hit upon the idea, you know, what if it was what if it was Maggie, you know, what if she saved you basically saved them, but he didn’t know it. And so he goes on living this living this persona. And then there’s a pivotal moment where she tells him because she’s trying to stop him from putting himself in danger again and again. You know, I know I’m the one that said do you think you’re indestructible but you’re not you know, it was it was me. And then of course, he’s like, Well, you were there if you were there those guys were there what happened you that is all that that’s a fabrication of my own but but but what I would have started to do with it with this kind of the Charlie Rick’s thing. I’m trying to present a plausible scenario of how that might have happened, you know, and make it as kind of realistic as possible, because you know, him just him just walking 10 Miles doesn’t really make a lot of sense.


Dan LeFebvre  27:05

So you mentioned Charlie RAIKES, apparently didn’t die in that shootout. But you had mentioned earlier that your grandfather and Forrest did get shot there. Was that was that shoot out? fairly accurately depicted then other than Charlie Rex?


Matt Bondurant  27:19

No, no, the shooter was certainly one of the scenes that was, let’s say, amplified and exaggerated quite a bit in a real shoot out. There was only a couple shots. I mean, basically, the real shoot out it was he shot jack, and then he shot for it in forest ran towards him. He shot forest. And then Howard was standing there, and he was going to shoot Howard. But one of his fellow deputies, Henry Abshire knocked his hand down and in the gun, like discharged into the snow. So he was going to 123 you know, he was killed to kill the three brothers. And that was it. That was all. Now, that incident kind of brought the whole thing tumbling down, because there were all these state and federal people involved by this point. So when this shooting incident occurred, that everybody started paying attention to looking at it, like wait a minute out, why is this guy executing people? And so that brought the whole scheme down in I mean, so so that that did kind of finish the quarterly and his whole scheme. But no, not like that. Charlie RAIKES, died a couple years later, right before the testimony I was saying, and it was unusual, he, he developed pneumonia, and died in like, a day, you know, just like, like, within one day, it was really weird. And so in the book I like, I sort of suggest that, that maybe Howard and his brothers had something to do with that in the book, and Howard finds them. And you know, because Howard wants revenge because Howard showed up late watches his two brothers get shot by this man. So he’s angry. So he takes revenge on and in the book, I tried to create again, a plausible scenario and how Howard might have done something to him that caused him to get this like drastic demote, that killed them the next day, whatever. But the film they know you need a bigger unit bigger shoot how to do and you need all that stuff. And they in this time, they had Jack, you know, showing up early and all upset and ready to kill rakes. You know, he’s mad about the cricket paid murder kind of thing. So that’s all that that’s all them at that point. And then the way that just don’t hail a bullet, there’s a lot of shooting, you know, lots of shooting, and there wasn’t there wasn’t all that shooting. So that that is probably the farthest from the historical record, you know, other than like, Charlie race, not being from Chicago, just the way that whole thing played out that I mean for us get shot like five times, right?


Dan LeFebvre  29:57

Yeah, it was it was quite a lot.


Matt Bondurant  29:59

So you You know, but you know, that’s that’s filmmaking. So they did you know, and I talked to him about it, he was like, you know, we need a bigger we got to make a bigger thing. And so I understood that.


Dan LeFebvre  30:08

So on the flip side of that, were there any parts that you saw in the movie where they’re like, Wow, they really nailed that.


Matt Bondurant  30:13

Yeah, I mean, I think they did a good job of sort of presenting the environments of Franklin County looked pretty good know that. The EU saw bits about how the Great Depression was, you know, people were out of work and coming into the, you know, come riding the rails coming into town, there’s little clips here and there that kind of helps suggest that.


Matt Bondurant  30:39

I thought it was interesting the way they they they had they handled the racial disparity of Franklin County, which is unusual, because there were black families there. Not many farmers. My father’s next door neighbors was a bike found in the shade xos. And the way that they played because of delivering the liquor tune, which is the scene that I have in the book seems to be inappropriate characterization of the kinds of relationship they had. I mean, because my father used to play with those kids, and they were friendly, they were quite friendly. However, the members that that family would never like, come inside and eat at the dinner table with them. You know what I mean? It was like that kind of. So I thought that was pretty well done. I think the way that the way that how the automobile was becoming a big deal, Jack and his fondness for that, Jack’s fondness for rich, sort of nice things. That was a motivating factor that I know my, my father told me that, that his father, my grandfather told him once that, you know, during the Depression, there was like this pair of boots, and a window of the store and it cost $2. And like all I could think about as if he just had $2 he would get these boots like there was a big deal to them, you know. And even later on in life, he was a guy that liked nice things. I mean, not He wasn’t like flashy. No, and these are nice things and like an Appalachian way, like a nice pair of boots. Yeah, it’s not Yeah, it’s not. So there were there were elements like that, that I thought they did a really good job with the sort of filling station store that they put together. That was a big part of the set. I thought that was, remarkably, I was able to go on set for that I was visiting the set and hung around that building for a couple of days with with my father, actually. And that was beautifully done. I mean, that historical detail, that place was really cool. My dad was amazed he was just wandering around in like the desert colors. I mean, the cars were amazing. They had, you know, that was really beautifully done. The old ordered Baptist Church, that Bertha, you know, Jack’s love interest, which is out there. That’s all true. My grandmother was raised as a drunkard. They call him, you know, old order that does German Baptist. And, you know, I researched about the kinds of boom ceremonies they had and what their service was, like, for example, when the singing even the feet washing, you know, that’s all something they did. And that’s one of the cool that one of the really cool things early on was, you know, you have this notorious when I started researching this for a novel, you know, many years ago was you have this, the Bonner of brothers, the most sort of notorious group of villains in Franklin County. And then you have, literally the preacher’s daughter in a 1930. They are dating like that they get married, like next year, and my father is born at 32 My father, the oldest child, so I mean, like, all of this is happening in the midst of their courtship. And I was like, that’s fascinating to me. How does that even happen? Like, how do you even get to, you know, get together, get to know each other? And, you know, what’s a classic kind of Romeo and Juliet thing that you know, these families couldn’t be more different so that I was and I liked the way that they worked with that kept a lot of see in their scenes, their scenes in the there’s there’s several scenes that they played really straight from the book, which I was very happy about. But those weren’t necessarily the most historically accurate. For example, like, you know, one of my favorite scenes in the book is when is when Jessica chesty confronts him with the idea of you know, that she drove him to the hospital that night, and that, you know, she suggestion is that those guys did something to her. And she has that line about, you know, and none of them never did anything. To me, it just kind of emotional moan, like that is that’s exactly verbatim from the book, which is great. You know, I’m glad they did that. And that’s one of my favorite scenes. So, you know, it is a pretty good mix. It’ll Hillcoat early on said that they wanted to retain as much historical accuracy as possible. You know, we were working to change some of these things. We’re gonna do some of these things in the interest of dramatic tension. But we, you know, and in that way, I think his aims were very similar to modern. You had to keep the story true. If not, in a historical sense, then and have a plausibility sense that these kinds of things do It happened, at least other people could happen, or likely happened. But you have to imagine scenes dialog, sell that stuff because there’s no record of these things. And and I think that hilker did the same. Same kind of thing. And in the end overall, I’m really happy with it. You know, I mean, even the Charlie RAIKES sort of transformation to a Chicago gangster, I mean, I love what, what Guy Pearce did with it. That’s crazy character. And Guy Pearce is one of my favorite actors and all that. And so, but I understand why they did it. You know, it makes sense. Because trying to do a more local Charlie RAIKES, a much more nuanced, slower builds, you know, all that stuff. It’d be hard to do that in film be limited to ourselves.


Dan LeFebvre  35:42

Afterwards, at the end, after the shoot out, everybody kind of ends up happy. I know, you had mentioned Bertha, with with Jack and Forrest marrying Maggie and Howard gets married. Was that the way things ended? Was that pretty accurate as well?


Matt Bondurant  35:57

Yeah, that was I mean, yeah. And one of the One of the notable things was that, obviously, Jack got married. And my father was born in 32. So you know, in that, there’s that boy that sits on Jack’s lap. And then towards the end, that’s supposed to be my father, you know, and they had six kids. And Howard also had a bunch of kids, for us never had any kids. But him and him and Maggie lived together. That’s all true. There’s a couple of things going on. In one sense, the bond runs after that, really Never Again, became anything like they were like the bond rock boys kind of stuff was not. That being said, my grandfather was arrested for moonshine a couple times. After that later, he actually went to jail three different times for year, each time. Last time, my dad was on high school. But that was like small, you know, it was much, much more small time. I mean, it was way to make extra money, but it wasn’t, it wasn’t like, wasn’t like it was before. But let’s say after my mom, by the time I might, my dad was in high school, or you know that that last time, it’s hard to explain. But even though he was he was caught and serve time there, he was still seen as a sort of upstanding member of the community. You know, I mean, that there wasn’t all the violence anymore. People were still making, you know, obviously making and selling some liquor. And if you got caught by the Revenue Service, or the local sheriff’s, whatever, and you weren’t able to bribe them off, or whatever, that wasn’t looked upon as some kind of terrible crime. You know, I mean, it was so common, that there wasn’t, there wasn’t much like a social stigma attached to it. So he was still an upstanding member the community, and after that, by the time say, like the 50s, and 60s come around, Bond rods are out of the business, except that maybe very small, private things. As far as making goes making liquor and, and so you know, it, it’s that that it’s it’s sort of a it’s a part of our past, but it’s, you know, Howard went on to be a family, man, and all this kind of stuff. And Forrest was, you know, Forrest was still involved here. He did, he sold the shop, and he still got involved in a few things here and there, but it was never like it was before. Now also, there’s a scene in the book that’s a lot like the scene at the end. And one of the one of the things, one of the reasons why I did it that way, I sort of view that scene at the end is kind of a compression, of like, the next 20 years where they kind of get themselves out of this crime business. And they’ve suddenly become normal people necessarily, you know, all this kind of stuff, they start having kids, and you kind of compress it into one day to kind of demonstrate all those things. And part of it also was what was well, and I fully admit, was that, you know, it’s my own family I’m talking about here and my father. I didn’t want I want I wanted to show that the bond Ron’s ultimately became responsible citizens, not in that didn’t go on. And so I wanted to, I wanted to end the book. And I’m glad they did the movie to on that kind of upbeat, that sort of high note, it was important for me, it was important for my relatives to see it, you know, my uncles and aunts and my father, and, you know, I couldn’t end the thing with them still being criminals, you know, I mean, and so that was a kind of a compression of really a journey to respectability that took place over a decade or to you know, and like I said, by by the 50s and 60s, they were all sperm in doing normal stuff. You know, it was all that was gone.


Dan LeFebvre  39:39

Was there anything in the book that didn’t make it into the movie, like maybe one of your favorite stories to give people kind of a peek into the stuff that’s in the book that if they read the book, they wouldn’t be able to see in the movie? The whole short answer, short Anderson storyline.


Matt Bondurant  39:56

I mean, if people are not familiar with Sean Anderson, I think I think you’ll enjoy it. And if you’ve been if you are familiar with Sherwin Anderson, I think it’s really kind of special. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of the way that I was able to work him into the book, because when I started researching and found out the show, Danielson was actually there, and roaming around Franklin County, putting together this article that he did, and then reading kit, Brandon, which is clearly based on some parts of it. Sean Anderson is one of my literary heroes. I mean, he’s arguably the most important prose stylist of 20th century American fiction. I mean, he’s the guy that taught Hemingway and Faulkner how to write. So in his book, Winesburg, Ohio, is, you know, has to be considered one of the top 10 most important books in American literature and the 20 in the 20th century, certainly, perhaps in all of all time, because it created this style and a kind of a template or organizational method, all kinds of things that became very distinctly American that you see borne out in anyway, Faulkner, then by extension of people like Fitzgerald, or flinty or Connor, etc, etc. so vitally, vitally important, but also because that book was so large, and then the books preceding that his career after that slowly sort of kind of diminished his books became less popular and critically panned. And so his, his is a sort of unique American tragedy of rise to fame, and then sort of slow descent, and he, and then he, and so by this time, in 35, he’s struggling, you know, he’s struggling already. Faulkner and Hemingway’s, their stars ascended ascendant, and they both by this point, also they, they basically pushed him aside, you know, they basically kind of like, and a couple of books were kind of like, were laughed at, at Hemingway, the towards of spring marked and openly, you know, he had to he had a couple of humiliating SS episodes. And so you had this kind of broken down, man. And so it’s it makes for a great sort of foil to these, these Bronner brothers and that he’s trying to find out what’s going on. And he’s having trouble breaking through the kind of bubble of silence that persists in places like Brantley County, and it’s still a very quiet place and people don’t talk about people don’t talk about neutron, you don’t talk about it. Nobody talks about that’s why it was really hard. There’s no stories and nothing written down really is gonna be talked about. And I think that whole element adds a really nice layer to the story because it provides you with a with a kind of an outsider perspective, you know, somebody that’s from outside the community coming in. And so the observation he makes, I think, are really interesting for a reader who’s not familiar with, you know, that area or something like that. And he’s also able to provide a more of a historical perspective, you know, he was a world traveled guy. And so things like the depression and what’s going on stock market, for example, things like that, which barely made much of a ripple and places like Franklin County, my dad, my dad said they were poor, before the depression, they were poor, during the Depression, they were poor, after the burden, not much changed. So that whole element, which is about a third of the book, you know, I think adds a lot of interesting contexts. And it’s in a particular his pursuance of Maggie, which is, as I said earlier, is like the way he was he was thinking about her as a character to use in his next novel. So as he’s following Maggie around trying to get trying to figure her out. Also, in the book, you know, there’s a lot more about Howard Howard in the film, gets very little time. Jason Clark is a great actor I liked I liked him. He’s also the one that that he looks very much like a lot of art. He looked like a banner on a lot of ways. But they didn’t give them a whole lot to work with in the in the, in the book, Howard has, you know, just about equal treatment is forced to Jack and he has a whole backstory, he has a whole story of how he came to be the person that he is. And I found that really fascinating. He’s one of my, it’s probably my favorite guy, just because his story is so particularly interesting. And they left you know, that’s all that’s all out. So I think that, that any reader of the book is going to get a fuller appreciation of all the characters, but in particular, somebody like Howard, I think, and then, like, you mentioned the Charlie RAIKES stuff, stuff like that. There’s also Maggie gets more I mean, you know, Maggie, they, they had they, you know, they rush her, the she shows up, she’s involved, you know, and then there’s like, all this stuff happening. Whereas in the book, it’s a more gradual even like the kind of awkward courtship of Maggie and enforced now the the courtship between Eartha and Jack, they did keep a lot of those seeds. Which is great. I mean, that that’s like when, when the church scene when she washes his feet and he runs off all drunk and then they’re the one where the they drive the car out into the field and he gives you that dress and stuff like that. That’s all in the book. And obviously that’s that’s the main love interest. So they wanted to keep that in.


Dan LeFebvre  44:58

And I’m glad they did. Yeah, It sounds like there’s a lot in the book that even if you’ve seen the movie, there’s still going to be a lot more. So I guess my final question would be, where can people get the book?


Matt Bondurant  45:08

You can still get it anywhere. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s on Amazon. It’s in most bookstores around the country, certainly available online. It’s managed to continue to sell well, over the years. I think it’s, you know, I think obviously, the bit that the movie has lot had a lot to do with that. And the based on a true story aspect. A lot of people find that it’s a it’s funny, the sales always really tick up on Father’s Day. Like it’s apparently it’s a big, good gift to give to your older dad or something, you know, means because like, it’s the kind of book that he’ll read and like, because there’s like, there’s some fighting and shooting and liquor in it. But you know, fine by me, that’s cool. So no, it’s the wettest county in the world. And then, of course, there’s a version called lawless too, which is the exact same book, they just have the title lawless, like they couldn’t do, what is counting the world for the film, because the main, it’s kind of long and awkward. It also sounds like the pornographic version of the right. I mean, that’s the funny thing is you could have the porno version of the book, and we don’t have to change name, it’s the same. But the big deal they told me was that the wetness, like the idea of wet versus dry counties is something that’s not understood internationally and international market, as you probably know, is a big deal. You know, they got to be able to sell this in Europe. It’s like so wet that would the people be very confused by this idea of a wettest County, which is something we understand as Americans so like they they came up with, with with lawless, they actually have somebody else was going to have a movie called lawless and he gave him the title I forget it was as a famous director. It’s sort of my mind now. Anyway, but yeah, so lawless, you know, and then they say, Well, do you want to do a we’re gonna do a copy of the book in we’re gonna call it lawless. Center, right. Okay. Sure. I guess, you know, and so there’s some of those those some of those are out there too. But ya know, you can get anywhere and especially Amazon.


Dan LeFebvre  47:04

Sounds great. I’ll make sure to include links to that in the show notes. Thanks so much for your time, Matt.


Matt Bondurant  47:10

Yeah, sure. Glad to do it. Thank you.



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