Dane Kirby

Created by Brian Panowich

“There wasn’t a trail or a pig path in North Georgia he couldn’t navigate with his eyes closed.”
— Kirby knows his way around (Hard Cash Valley)

In the third book in the Bull Mountain series, a multi-volume saga that follows the rough-edged Burroughs clan of the hill country of north Georgia through multiple generations, from rumrunners and moonshiners to meth dealers (suggested musical accompaniment: Steve Earle’s “Copperhead Road”), we finally get to meet DANE KIRBY, who’d previously been mentioned, but only in passing.

“I know Dane. He’s a good guy,” one character says tov another in Like Lions (2018), the second novel. “He used to head up McFall County Fire until he left to go join the SO in Fannin. I even campaigned for him.”

But Kirby’s life is a bit more complicated that that. By the time we hook up with him in Hard Cash Mountain (2020), his two years as a sheriff in Fannin County is over, as is his previous eight years as an arson investigator for McFalls County, where he’d lived for most of his life. Still shattered by his wife Gwen’s murder, he chose to retire.

But then he gets called in by the “big dogs” to “consult” on a particularly nasty murder over in Jacksonville, Florida, motel room, and upon his arrival, is teamed up with an FBI counterpart, Special Agent Roselita Velasquez, to investigate. The trail, however, soon leads them back to McFalls County, in a hunt for a missing boy with Asperger’s Syndrome and a storm of violence and bloodshed that seems to be swirling around him.

I’m not sure if Dane will return to the series after Hard Cash Mountain, or even if Dane really qualifies as a “private eye,” but I wouldn’t mind seeing him again–like James Lee Burke, Daniel ­Woodrell or William Faulkner, Panovich has a poet’s touch for his fierce vision of the South, a brooding miasma of sweat, piss, blood and hard lives that haunts his characters like vengeful ghosts.

As a touring musician, the author travelled all over the South, before finally settling in East Georgia with his family, where he now works full-time as a firefighter. His first novel, Bull Mountain, was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, ITW Thriller Award winner for Best First Novel, Southern Book Prize winner, and a finalist for both the Anthony and the Barry Awards.

By the way, according to an interview, Dane Kirby is named after a real-life sheriff over in Fannin County. He used to be  is a “great guy” and a “fine resource to pull from.”


  • “Dug into the landscape like a grave, Bull Mountain is a novel that resonates with a stirring combination of grace and brutality, of beauty and loss. In the Burroughs family, Brian Panowich creates a clan with all the fire and depth of Faulkner’s Henry Sutpen storming through a Steve Earle song.”
    — Steve Weddle on Bull Mountain



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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