Hungry Town

Jason Kapcala. West Virginia Univ, $19.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-952271-40-3

Kapcala’s colorful and taut debut novel (after the collection North to Lakeville) delves into the decaying steel town of Lodi, Ohio. After the police are dispatched to an abandoned steel mill, they find a group of teens trespassing and taking photographs. On the scene is aging, grizzled patrolman Ed Lewis who rarely follows procedures and puts the oldest boy in the group, Rodney Peach, into a choke hold. Fearing for his life, Rodney manages to break away, only to fall to his death. While Lodi’s police brass anticipate a PR nightmare, the Peach family set out to avenge their son’s death. Rodney’s little brother Stanley, meanwhile, has demons of his own to wrestle with. Then there are the exploits of Darla, a self-tattooed, desperate woman on the run from her abusive grifter ex-boyfriend Jim Delacroix. She arrives in Lodi shaken but resolved to remain hidden at the local motel, but Jim dispatches his thuggish brothers Primo and Lucky to find her and bring her back. As the subplots simmer, Kapcala expertly nails the sullen hopelessness of the mill town and the downtrodden locals. With the grit of a western and the crackle of a murder mystery, this finely wrought effort delivers the goods. (Mar.)