P R E S S  +  R E V I E W S : T H E  H U N T

“Truly absorbing…Ford renders the town of Presley, Ark., as a living entity swirling with resentments and loyalties, and governed by fear, thanks to wild rumors that a serial murderer stalks prey at the town’s famous ‘Hunt for the Golden Egg’ each Easter…You won’t find any tidy narratives or simple judgments here.” New York Times Book Review

“Ford skillfully keeps the reader off kilter, wondering if The Hunter really exists or is a myth, with deaths just coincidences chalked up to alcohol, fast driving or bad choices. The Hunt vividly explores the characters’ ennui as this diverse group of co-workers authentically represents the changing landscape of small towns.”—Oline Cogdill, South Florida Sun Sentinel

The Hunt by Kelly J. Ford offers a poignant illustration of loss and grief as it expands and contracts over time within a world not willing to allow its victims to forget.”—Deep South magazine

The bard of Ozark crime fiction delivers another tale of corrosive small-town secrets… The Hunt, by turns arch and creepy, keeps us guessing to the last and delivers a satisfying wrap-up.” —Washington Independent Review of Books

“Better than almost anyone writing today, Kelly J. Ford is able to spot the magic in the mundane and craft a compelling story around what others simply look right past. As a thriller junkie, the misdirection and increasing levels of danger kept me entertained.” —The Best Thriller Books

“The Hunt by Kelly J Ford is a down-home dark and suspenseful trip though the legends and lore that make the South the beautiful, haunted place it is. Kelly is a wordsmith of the first order and this story grabs you on page one and never lets go!” —S.A. Cosby, bestselling author of Razorblade Tears

“No one does small town noir like Kelly J. Ford. With an enticing premise and characters rich in nuance if not money, THE HUNT is a welcome addition to any crime fiction lover’s bookshelf. I loved it.” —Kellye Garrett, award-winning and Edgar-nominated author of Like a Sister

“Imagine if Megan Abbott penned a chilling yarn about an annual Easter egg hunt in backwoods Arkansas, and you’re getting close to what Kelly J. Ford’s pulled off in her next novel. The Hunt perfectly captures the strangeness that lurks behind the guise of so many small-town Southern traditions. Nobody does buried secrets better than Kelly. But this dark rural noir conjures up more than just old ghosts—it shines a fresh new light on the truth.” —Eli Cranor, author of Don’t Know Tough and Ozark Dogs

“Ford’s The Hunt cements her as not only one of the best Southern fiction writers around but also one of the best contemporary writers period. There’s a macabre playfulness to The Hunt as each unpredictable twist builds to an ending no one will see coming. But despite the dark humor, this is ultimately a story about how guilt can consume and destroy, especially in small towns, where empathy can be in short supply and gossip is a sport. Ford knows how to put her characters’ humanity front and center even as they repeatedly stumble down dangerous paths. These are damaged people you want to see win.” —Heather Levy, author of the Anthony-nominated Walking through Needles

“Ford is particularly good at laying down subtle bread crumbs for readers to follow, utilizing fun devices such as a Google Doc moderated by amateur sleuths who are trying to identify the Hunter. This basket is stuffed with surprises.” Publishers Weekly

“Kelly J. Ford’s spikily empathetic The Hunt (Thomas & Mercer) is, like her first two novels, 2017’s Cottonmouths and 2022’s Real Bad Things – set in a small town populated largely by working class and often queer characters….Suspenseful as it is, The Hunt’s real strength is this investment it its characters, depicted with complexity and warm, while the conclusion only solves some of the puzzle.” —The Irish Times

“An Easter egg hunt in Presley, Arkansas is the unlikely springboard for a serial killer’s diabolical plot in Kelly J. Ford’s newest standout thriller. Ford takes all that small-town rumor and agitation and burns it down to its purest form, where every incident is loaded with significance and the race to untangle truth from supposition becomes almost impossible. Ford pulls off the high-wire act with coolness and style to spare.” CrimeReads

Kelly J. Ford has written a book that holds readers in a vice grip, anxious to know how it will all end as quickly as possible. With just three books under her belt, Kelly J. Ford has proven herself to have a distinctive voice perfectly suited for her brand of Southern crime fiction. Readers looking for something unique should pick up a copy of The Hunt as soon as possible, they won’t regret it.” —Kristopher Zgorski, Bolo Books

“Kelly J. Ford is a modern master of the rural noir—dragging the elements of a classic tale and reshaping it with a tone and viewpoint that is undoubtedly modern and alive. The Hunt is loaded with tension and razor-sharp plotting but also lets readers engulf themselves in the all-too-human characters Ford is so adept at creating. A small-town suspense novel that evokes tales like Megan Abbott’s The Fever and Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects with Ford’s trademark voice. A winner.” —Alex Segura, bestselling author of Secret Identity

“…another suspenseful, subtly layered exploration of life and death, longing and loss, memory and the opacity of the present moment, all filtered through more than one queer sensibility in the fictionalized small town of Presley, Arkansas.” Reckon Review

“What a pleasure to return to the dark and insular world of rural Arkansas in the incredibly talented hands of author Kelly J. Ford, who expertly mines for truth in fiction, and strikes the golden egg in The Hunt. The main character Nell is vividly drawn in her grief for her brother leading toward a powerful confrontation of the past. Readers will enjoy leaving well-trod cities and suburbs behind for the dark secrets of the Ozarks.”—Vanessa Lilie, bestselling author of Little Voices and Blood Sisters

P R E S S  +  R E V I E W S : R E A L  B A D  T H I N G S

“The truth slowly unfolds as the plot builds toward a surprising conclusion foreshadowed by a trail of skillfully disguised clues. Ford delivers the goods.”
Publishers Weekly

“Lush, unsettling southern noir.” Electric Literature

“Kelly J Ford does an uncomfortably good job at portraying the claustrophobia of small towns, where everyone knows your business and gossip runs faster than any official media could keep up with. . . With layers of storytelling portraying generational trauma, small towns and the unbearable confines their scrutiny can place on anyone who feels different, and the unbreakable bonds that adversity can forge, Real Bad Things is sometimes a hard read, but always an excellent one. Readers looking for slow burn mystery with unforgettable characters and an unforgettable atmosphere will find here exactly what they need.” Mystery & Suspense Magazine

Real Bad Things is a down and dirty, gravel-road-gritty story that pulls no punches while it blows kisses. Kelly J. Ford is the moonshine-soaked voice rural noir has been looking for. Real Bad Things is really damn good.” — S.A. Cosby, New York Times bestselling author of Razorblade Tears and Blacktop Wasteland

“Ford’s follow-up to her devastating debut novel, Cottonmouths, is a moving meditation on misplaced loyalties, love, and the legacy of violence and abuse, all wrapped in a mystery filled with guy-wire tension.” — John Vercher, author of Three-Fifths and After the Lights Go Out

“Acclaimed author Kelly J. Ford spins a propulsive, sophisticated, and fearlessly queer tour de force in Real Bad Things. Ford’s richly drawn characters and breathtaking storytelling create an inescapable undertow of menace that will not let go until the shocking final page. This is gothic suspense at its most haunting.” — P. J. Vernon, author of Bath Haus and When You Find Me

“This atmospheric, suspenseful novel will keep you guessing and page-turning all the way to the end.” Good Housekeeping

“Beautifully written and socially astute, Real Bad Things delivers on the promise of Ford’s 2018 debut, Cottonmouths.”CrimeReads

“A twisting tale of murder, secrets and coming home to face the music, Real Bad Things will keep you guessing and surprise you with its emotional depth and honesty.  Kelly J. Ford has crafted a stimulating story that’s part crime thriller, part psychological exploration and part social commentary.” — Best Thriller Books

“A powerful, grounded, and dark dose of rural noir, Real Bad Things is a tale of a homecoming gone wrong. Kelly J. Ford evokes the work of superstars like Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell in this story of dark secrets coming back to roost and pulls it all through the prism of her own potent voice. This is a down and dirty crime novel that nods to the masters while keeping both feet firmly planted in the present. I loved it.” — Alex Segura, acclaimed author of Secret Identity, Star Wars Poe Dameron: Free Fall, and Blackout

“This absolutely gripping and gorgeously written Southern noir grabs hold and does not let go until the very last page. Ford’s darkly atmospheric writing transports you right to the underbelly of Maud Bottoms—where the water teems with dead bodies, hidden secrets, forbidden love, and past betrayals—and pulls you inescapably into its ominous current, then shocks you with its final twist. Real Bad Things is Southern gothic perfection.” — Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, author of Holding On To Nothing, winner of the IPPY Gold Award for Southern Regional Fiction

P R E S S  +  R E V I E W S : C O T T O N M O U T H S

Ford’s novel features a lesbian protagonist, yet sexuality is only one facet of her strongly drawn character. Emily suffers from unrequited love, from betrayal, and from a longing for meaning and acceptance. Her struggles, as well as those of her family and community, are universal struggles set in a brutal reality where choices are scarce. Read this debut novel for its ability to go beneath the surface, striking impressive depths of character and setting.”
Los Angeles Review
The Best Books of the Year, 2017

“Refreshingly, Cottonmouths refuses to romanticize unrequited love . . . Cottonmouths is not a love story: it’s a tale of resentment, venomous betrayal, and the wounds hidden beneath familiar surfaces. Through a kaleidoscope of characters, Ford’s dark novel shows us the choices people make when the world denies them good options, and the consequences of complicity.” ―Lambda Literary

“Filled with foreboding and anguished desire, Cottonmouths is a perfectly-paced drama of the perils of loyalty, love, and homecoming. A terrific novel by an exciting new queer voice.” ―Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love and Leading Men

“Gripping and atmospheric. A tense tale of the specific gravity of the places and the people we come from, and can never fully leave behind.” ―Kate Racculia, Bellweather Rhapsody

“A taut page-turner trembling with desire and regret, Kelly J. Ford’s debut Cottonmouths, strips away nostalgia for person and place when the return of one young woman reveals the rotting core of a small southern town, unraveling with the ferocity of addiction, and forcing a painful lesson― she must learn to let go of her delusions in both love and friendship before it’s too late.” ―Michelle Hoover, author of Bottomland

“Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths is a fierce first novel―startling in its grip and authenticity. It’s a novel about desire and desperation and the perilous danger of loving broken people in broken places.” ―Travis Mulhauser, author of Sweetgirl

“A compelling story of unrequited love, identity, and the power of letting go.” ―Heather Newton, author of Under the Mercy Trees

“Part noir, part Southern Gothic, Cottonmouths is far more than the sum of these parts, an original story that haunted me after I read it. Kelly J. Ford’s unflinching prose plunges readers into the town of Drear’s Bluff, where what’s familiar isn’t what’s safe and where desire proves deadly.” ―Stephanie Gayle, author of Idyll Threats

“With prose as lyrical and languid as a hot Arkansas summer, Kelly J. Ford explores the myopia of desire―and its tragic aftermath. I found myself torn between wanting to rip through these pages to find out what would happen, and a need to slow down and savor Ford’s sentences. A remarkable debut.” ―Lisa Borders, author of The Fifty-First State

“Kelly J. Ford delivers a sharp punch to the gut with this tightly spun modern noir tale. I can’t wait to read more from this author.” ―Tiffany Quay Tyson, author of Three Rivers

“Ford’s debut novel traces the sobering struggles of small-town meth addiction, sexual identity and the choices people make when good options are in short supply.” ―Los Angeles Times

“Kelly J. Ford’s novel Cottonmouths captures life in backwoods America like a fish in a frying pan. Ford takes her young, raw, flailing characters and rakes them over the heat of a high-octane plot until their vulnerable insides sizzle on the page.” ―Shelf Awareness

“The aptly named Drear’s Bluff could be transposed to just about any Smalltown, USA, in the sense of its small-mindedness and its resistance to change… Ford’s novel features a lesbian protagonist, yet her sexuality is only one facet of her strongly drawn character. Emily suffers from unrequited love, from betrayal, and from a longing for meaning and acceptance. Her struggles, as well as those of her family and community, are universal struggles set in a brutal reality where choices are scarce. Read this debut novel for its ability to go beneath the surface, striking impressive depths of character and setting.” ―The Museum of Americana

“COTTONMOUTHS, another book that seems to sample the new territory wrought by David Joy and Frank Bill, is an original addition to the meth and magnolia genre. . . . This debut novel from Kelly J. Ford is sensitive yet brutal, with Ford giving her protagonist Emily believable flaws while nailing small-town southern culture in the new world that has replaced Welty and Connery with Joy and Crews. A terrific new voice in the genre.” ―Shelf Discovery

“Cottonmouths paints a disturbing picture of deep darkness lurking just below the surface of small-town America.” ―Mystery Scene magazine

“A Southern Gothic Queer Masterpiece.” ―S.A. Cosby, Do Some Damage

18 Books That Should Be On Your Radar: January 2020 ―Writer’s Bone podcast

“We talk about the need for diverse books in America; Cottonmouths shows us a version of our country seldom given its own narrative. Kelly J. Ford writes with honesty, subtlety, and grace.” —Patricia Park, Re Jane

Cottonmouths is an astonishingly assured debut from Kelly J. Ford, a writer who daringly plumbs the depths of both love and despair in a new and chilling South rendered with taut and pitch-perfect detail. Trust me, this is a book you will remember.” ―Kimberly Elkins, author of What is Visible

“Kelly J. Ford’s Cottonmouths is a heartbreaking debut about the lies we tell ourselves to brave the past—and the truths we hide that hurt us most. An honest, unflinching portrait of yearning and loss.” –Andy Davidson, author of In the Valley of the Sun