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Nitro Mountain: A novel
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Published:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2016
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Description
An astonishing, even shocking debut written with both humor and heart by, as John Casey puts it, "a natural-born writer who inhabits every one of his characters—the good, the bad, and those who swing back and forth."

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 her poison him. And there's Arnett himself, a psychopath for the ages—albeit so charming and deranged, so strikingly authentic, that he arrests the reader's attention at first sight 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, a vulnerable yet strong woman struggling heroically to survive the endemic hopelessness and violence that have surrounded her since birth.
Relentless? Yes, of course, but never remotely gratuitous. Every single moment is shot through with the pain and misery that inspire so much of the music these people love more than life itself.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/17/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781101946374
ASIN:
B014BR5R0U
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Lee Clay Johnson. (2016). Nitro Mountain: A novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Lee Clay Johnson. 2016. Nitro Mountain: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Lee Clay Johnson, Nitro Mountain: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Lee Clay Johnson. Nitro Mountain: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2016. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Needs Update?:
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 16:41:53
Date Updated:
Dec 08, 2020 06:25:50
Last Metadata Check:
Jul 25, 2021 08:55:00
Last Metadata Change:
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Jul 25, 2021 08:55:04
Last Availability Change:
Aug 06, 2018 15:26:55
Last Grouped Work Modification Time:
Jul 28, 2021 02:28:01

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publishDate
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title
Nitro Mountain
fullDescription
An astonishing, even shocking debut written with both humor and heart by, as John Casey puts it, "a natural-born writer who inhabits every one of his characters—the good, the bad, and those who swing back and forth."

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 her poison him. And there's Arnett himself, a psychopath for the ages—albeit so charming and deranged, so strikingly authentic, that he arrests the reader's attention at first sight 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, a vulnerable yet strong woman struggling heroically to survive the endemic hopelessness and violence that have surrounded her since birth.
Relentless? Yes, of course, but never remotely gratuitous. Every single moment is shot through with the pain and misery that inspire so much of the music these people love more than life itself.
From the Hardcover edition.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: O Magazine
      • content: "[A] darkly stunning tale of stark dramas and tragic lives."
      • premium: False
      • source: Tom Nolan, The Wall Street Journal
      • content: "Tense, disturbing, impressive. . . Johnson, a writer of great ability, is adept at conjuring dismal sensory details. . . and he's excellent, in a book told from several divergent points of view, at inhabiting the twisted psyches of his unfortunate and self-destructive characters."
      • premium: False
      • source: Bradley Sides, Electric Lit
      • content: "Daring . . . a worthy addition to the growing canon of contemporary Appalachian noir. . . . Johnson shows an incredible control of language. The narration is simple, but it enhances the world in which he plants us. . . . Nitro Mountain is like the home we failed to escape."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kenneth Champeon, BookPage
      • content: "Excellent . . . bold, arresting and well-timed [with] intelligent and sympathetic portraits of hard-up people making bad, justifiable decisions."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: "Exquisitely stark and gritty . . . Raw, yet relentlessly compelling."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus (starred)
      • content: "Appalachian noir at its darkest and most deranged . . . An ambitious, disturbing, and daring debut."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jill McCorkle
      • content: "A suspenseful, action-packed thriller that's also a brilliant study in humanity and what pushes someone over the line. Johnson paints some dark and desperate portraits, but even in the darkest he allows just enough light to reveal how complex and fragile each life is. He's skilled at delivering shocks when they're least expected, and likewise at humor--witty banter and memorable one-liners that will leave the reader laughing in the
        most unlikely places."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        March 14, 2016
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        March 15, 2016
        Appalachian noir at its darkest and most deranged. When a doctor suggests to one of the emotionally (and physically) battered women in this powerfully bleak novel that she may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, she responds bitterly that she's far too young for Vietnam, though the reader recognizes that life in the shadow of the titular Nitro Mountain is its own minefield. Most of these characters have been warped by brutality, abuse, even in-breeding, and the isolated community seems to offer no way to escape or transcend what amounts to a spiritual death sentence. At the core of the novel is a romantic triangle all but devoid of romance. At one corner is Leon, the first-person narrator of the long opening chapter. He's a broken-armed bass player who lives with his dysfunctional parents and makes little more than spare change onstage with a country band. He somehow finds himself attractive enough to quite a few of the novel's women, though, typically, "sex was just two sloppy bodies being tossed against each other." The love of his life, Jennifer, wants what Leon cannot give her and ends up either the lover or the mountain captive of a tattooed video voyeur whose camera monitored the women's bathroom at the town bar. Two of these people conspire to kill the other, though Leon's narration leaves open-ended who will be the killers and who will be the corpse. The second chapter switches to third-person narration (and the present tense) to show the aftermath of whatever happened on Nitro Mountain, where what once was a still for moonshine has given way to a deadly mixture of heroin and speed. It focuses on the songwriter who fronted the band that employed Leon and suggests the possibility of a future denied the others. Chapter 3 is the shortest and saddest, with another shift of narrative perspective and a sense that any glimmer of redemption might just be a mirage. Some of the plainspoken narration is very funny, deadly so, among characters who prefer pain to the numbness of feeling nothing at all. An ambitious, disturbing, and daring debut.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        March 15, 2016

        Johnson's raw first novel is one long, mournful wail, and it can make for tough listening. Hapless Leon can't hold onto a job or his sexy, bad-news sort-of girlfriend, Jennifer. His latest bid for her has led to a car crash and a broken arm that doesn't get in the way of his hiring himself out as bass player for Jones Young, at 30 almost a bluegrass and old-country-music legend in their neck of the woods. Leon meanders to Rachel, then discovers a video camera in the bathroom of a local bar and secretly rats out a dangerous man named Arnett, who ends up as the new, truly abusive man in Jennifer's life. Of course Leon consents to intervene when Jennifer comes pleading for help, though you know it will cost him. As Jones's final song suggests, the bad choices people make in this dark, ugly setting are evidence that they have no choice at all. VERDICT Johnson captures the lives of down-and-outers in remarkably well-crafted language. Yet despite some strong scenes, the narrative finally misses the tragic dimension of a Daniel Woodrell or Donald Ray Pollock work, making this just one more sorry tale. [See Prepub Alert, 11/9/15.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription
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 reader's attention at first sight 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...
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publisher
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group