Nitro Mountain

Lee Clay Johnson. Knopf, $25 (224p) ISBN 978-1-101-94636-7
Debut author Johnson has crafted an exquisitely stark and gritty portrait of life in Virginia mining country. Leon is a crass, hard-drinking bluegrass bass player with an unrequited love interest, Jennifer. She has survived childhood sexual abuse and intends to remain adrift while renovating an abandoned inn on Nitro Mountain with Arnett Atkins, an increasingly unstable felon. Arnett has been violent with her, and though she’s terrified, she confides in Leon and begs him to help her poison Arnett. Their plot fails and the tables turn, resulting in disastrous, bloody consequences. Throughout, Johnson’s narrative remains grainy as sandpaper and engages with the dusty country allure of a Ron Rash novel. At the conclusion, Jennifer is no better off than she was at the story’s outset, a minor miracle for such a serpentine novel with so many dark, treacherous edges. Stark and raw, yet relentlessly compelling, Johnson’s hardscrabble characters are awash in alcohol and dirty melodrama, constantly trying to claw their way out of the dingy reality holding them hostage. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/17/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 222 pages - 978-1-101-91244-7
Open Ebook - 300 pages - 978-2-213-70297-1
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