An astonishing, even shocking debut - darker than a bad night in hell - that is written with both humor and heart by "a writer with abundant and scary gifts and consummate skill".
Set in a bitterly benighted, mine-polluted corner of Virginia, Nitro Mountain follows a group of people bound together by alcohol, small-time crime, and music. There's Leon, a hapless bass player who can embroil himself in trouble just by getting out of bed in the morning. And his would-be girlfriend, Jennifer, who's living with Arnett, the town's most dangerous thug - and hoping Leon will help poison him. And there's Arnett himself, a psychopath for the ages - albeit so charming and deranged, so strikingly authentic, that he arrests the listener's attention and holds it fast. His mirror image, a singer-songwriter named Jones, has his own moral issues, though at least he's trying to be a good man.
The bright if battered soul who pulls us through this story is Jennifer, struggling heroically to survive the endemic hopelessness and violence that have surrounded her since birth. Relentless? Yes. But nothing remotely gratuitous: only the pain and misery that inspire so much of the music these people love more than life itself.
©2016 Lee Clay Johnson (P)2016 Recorded Books