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A Single Shot

Paperback, 09/19/2011

ISBN 9780316196703


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After the loss of his family farm, John Moon is a desperate man. A master hunter, his ability to poach game in-season or out is the only thing that stands between him and the soup kitchen line. Until Moon trespasses on the wrong land, hears a rustle in the brush, and fires a single fateful shot.

Following the bloody trail, he comes upon a shocking scene: an illegal, deep woods campground filled with drugs, bundles of cash and the body of a dead young woman, killed by Moon’s stray bullet.

Faced with an ultimate dilemma, Moon has to make a choice: does he take the money and ignore his responsibility for the girl’s death? Or confess?

But before he has a chance to decide, Moon finds himself on the run, pursued by those who think the money is theirs. Men who don’t care about right and wrong and who want only one thing from John Moon: his body, face down in a ditch.

Matthew F. Jones’ A Single Shot is a rare, visionary thriller reminiscent of the work of Tom Franklin, Ron Rash, Daniel Woodrell, and Cormac McCarthy.

Matthew F. Jones is also the author of the novels Boot Tracks, Deepwater, Blind Pursuit, The Elements of Hitting, and The Cooter Farm. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Praise for A SINGLE SHOT:

“A backwoods drama that is part Crime and Punishment, part Deliverance, and all white-knuckled suspense….it packs a helluva punch.”—People

“A complex crime drama . . . with an exciting climax that is truly shocking … A harrowing literary thriller….a powerful blend of love and violence, of the grotesque and the tender.”—The New York Times

“A terrific novel….you can hardly breathe while you’re reading this book….his crisis evokes every palm-sweating, heart-stopping, seemingly undoable mistake you’ve ever made.”—Los Angeles Times

Reading Group Guide

  1. John Moon does much of what he does in A Single Shot because of a sense of obligation—either to the girl he has killed, or to his wife and young son. Do you find Moon to be a moral man? If so, why? If no, why not?
  2. Is there anything about Moon’s decisions or behavior that, if done differently, might change the way you feel about him?
  3. Do you think it’s okay for Moon to poach game whendestitute and desperately in need of food to live on?
  4. Moon is presented with a long series of difficult decisionsthroughout A Single Shot—whether to follow thedeer he has been illegally hunting into the woods,whether to fire into the brush, what to do with thebody of the girl he has killed, what to do with the moneythat could change his life, and how to make thingsright once they begin to go horribly wrong. Reading A Single Shot, were there any particular decisions that struck you as foolish or poorly thought out? If so, do you understand Moon’s reasons for acting the way he did regardless?
  5. If you were in Moon’s shoes, do you think you would have acted differently? If so, where and when in the story? If not, how does this affect your reading of the novel?
  6. Given the same skill set as Moon, would you have taken the shot against Waylon that saved Abbie from death, torture, or disfigurement? If so, why? If no, why not?
  7. Is Moon a better man for having pulled the trigger and killed Waylon? Is this death more excusable than the one that opens the novel? Why or why not?
  8. Does Moon’s success at saving Abbie justify the risk he took in firing his weapon?
  9. Did the ending of A Single Shot surprise you? If so, why? If not, why not?
  10. Is Moon right to turn down Nobie’s offer to work for him? Clearly the decision has to do with pride, as the land he would be working used to belong to the Moon household. Does this decision to turn away money honorably earned affect your opinion of how Moon handles the
    money he has unlawfully obtained? What would you do?
  11. When A Single Shot begins, Moon and his wife, Moira, have already separated, though we experience snippets of their time together in Moon’s many vivid flashbacks. It’s clear that Moon cares deeply for Moira, even though she wishes to end their marriage. Do you accept Moon’s reasoning for why she wants to leave him? Is she right to seek a divorce? Who do you sympathize with more, Moon or Moira?
  12. When Moon holds his little boy seemingly for the first time after he has broken into Moira’s apartment, he discovers he is less capable of comforting the child than the babysitter who has made a wreck of the place and invited a man over as Moon’s child sleeps in the next room. Do you think this is evidence enough to show whether Moon would have made a good father to his son? Do you think Moon, like his father before him, would have been viewed as a disappointment to the generation he raises?
  13. Daggard Pitt, Moon’s lawyer, appears at first to be on Moon’s side. Later, Moon finds out he has been representing the interests of the thieves who have come after Moon at the same time. Do you find this to be moral behavior? How much does Pitt’s job as defender of the
    accused affect how you view the nature of his decisions?
  14. What do you make of the many hallucinations Moon experiences of the woman he has killed? Particularly, do you find the sexual nature of many of them to be expected? What reason, subconsciously or consciously, do you think Moon has for giving the dead girl a personality
    and thoughts of her own, despite having never met the girl before her death?
  15. To what extent is Moon’s assertion that the “bad thing” he refers to in his letters “was nobody’s fault” accurate? Is Moon culpable? Who in the novel is most culpable? Who is least culpable?
  16. A Single Shot has something in common with the plot of a Greek tragedy. Do you consider Moon to have a tragic flaw? If so, what is it?