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A Jar of Pennies

Jesse Grinder was born with few options, and life went south from there. He’s from country stock who toil in forestry, eat, sleep, go to church, and precious little-to-nothing else.

BoMac—that’s Beaufort Sebastian Maclean for those who want to get official about it—is a college dropout in love with journalism and committed to giving the small piney woods East Texas town of Whitmire a real newspaper.

While BoMac’s crushing on a pretty, well-respected local high school teacher, Grinder’s obsessed with any woman with a good-looking pair of…well, you get the idea. The two young men couldn’t be more different, but in 1979 their lives become intertwined when the sleepy community is upended by a series of brutal murders, none of which seem to be connected.

Driving home drunk late one night, Grinder rolls his truck. Although healing, he senses something’s not right in his head, especially when he has one of his spells. With life’s options dipping below zero, he drifts from one menial job to another. His size, strength of a county fair prize-winning bull, and hair-trigger temper prove a dangerous combination.

The murders allow BoMac to show the community—and the weekly Whitmire Standard’s tightwad owner—there are things more interesting than the annual Miss Sweetgum County pageant (a good advertising earner, though), and he’s tracking down every lead.

None of the victims knew one another: The local police chief is found at the bottom of the lake on a trout line; a divorcing wife, known to partake of drugs and local men, overdoses; the skeletal remains of a young mother and child are discovered in an abandoned barn; a congressman, two Houston drug dealers, and a shifty local car salesman all end up on the wrong end of a shotgun.

As folks are dropping like flies, BoMac finds a friend, confidant, and surrogate father in Charles Henniker, the high school’s new economics and history teacher. The retired Air Force colonel—an enigma to the gossips at the town’s café—gives the young reporter a sounding board and a voice of reason in a town that can’t see past the weekly Piggly Wiggy grocery sales circular.

Monitoring his police scanner and racking up miles on his old pickup, BoMac doggedly works his sources, questions witnesses, and spars with the cops. In a rancid, infested trailer house, he spots a missing jar of pennies and realizes he’s found the killer. With the police on their tail, BoMac and Charles race to stop the culprit before Whitmire loses another of its own.

John Yearwood’s Jar of Pennies is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read all year. It’s a fascinating, engaging, fast-moving tale of murder, dogged determination, and characters who are just plain fun to read. Yearwood’s storytelling of small-town, rural East Texas life is right on the money!

Yearwood, an award-winning journalist, is the author of three other novels. Learn more about Jar of Pennies and its author at, Facebook and on Instagram at jc.yearwood_author


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