The Ballad of Pinewood Lake

Jory Sherman, Author
Jory Sherman, Author Forge $21.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-312-85774-5
Paperback - 166 pages - 978-1-4662-0160-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 183 pages - 978-0-8125-8879-8
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Best known for his epic westerns, Sherman (Grass Kingdom) takes a radical detour from his usual trail of rustlers and ranchers in his 10th novel. Set in the mountains of Southern California in the 1990s, this gloomy story follows a young family's downward spiral of alcoholism and self-destruction. Johnnie Paul is a pulp writer who flees the Los Angeles rat race, seeking sanctuary on the shores of Pinewood Lake in the mountains northeast of the city. Johnnie is a hack: he writes bad poetry and fabricates ""true"" stories for men's adventure magazines. He dreams of writing a great novel, but deep inside he knows he won't. His wife, Angela, is an alcoholic whose first husband was killed in a skydiving accident. The couple and their young son, Colin, think they are safe in the mountains, but the demons that drove them there can't be outrun. The idyllic image of Pinewood Lake is, in fact, a brittle facade: the folks there are petty, jealous, usually drunk and always dysfunctional--not an ideal environment for a family already on the edge. Sherman's portrayal of Johnnie and Angela is poignant, and Johnnie's narration starkly reveals the pain and torture of alcoholism and doomed love. No matter how much they both pretend to believe in the future, life does get worse, and tragedy finally pushes them over the edge. Sherman's characters and his powerful delivery grip the reader in an uncomfortable clinch until the final page. Despite a heavy-handed prose style, literarily this is Sherman's most ambitious novel to date. (Feb.)
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