Book of the Film: Lawless


Caitlin Williams looks at the inspiration behind this week’s box office hit Lawless.

Lawless – originally named The Wettest County in the World – is an authentic American epic for our generation, steeped in whisky, history and blood. The tale starts in rural Virginia, following the lives of the three Bondurant brothers who make their living from the sale of illegal moonshine whisky.

Bondurant’s connection to the story is a personal one; the protagonist Jack being the author’s grandfather and so Lawless is brought to life on the page for author and reader in only a way true connection could allow. With our hearts in our mouths we read these brothers’ tales on the edge of our seats.

Journalist Sherwood Anderson’s entrance to the novel allows a sophisticated multi-dimensional aspect to the Bondurant’s story; five years after their story ends she is trying to fit together the broken pieces of violent, prohibition, Virginia and to discover why such atrocities went on for so long. Lawless, although exciting, is as gruesome as it is brilliant throughout.

John Hillcoat’s film adaptation does heavily simplify Bondurant’s plot, but acts as a thrilling tribute to a book and in its cut of many fairly meaningless characters actually increases the pace of the story without failing to evoke the emotion that the author so meticulously created for his original audience.


Lawless is available now from Canongate.


Leave a Reply