HELLBENDER by Jason Jack Miller
“It’s Johnny Cash with a fistful of copperheads singing the devil right back to hell.”
HELLBENDER, sophomore novel by Jason Jack Miller, is as much a sensory experience as his first in the Murder Ballads and Whiskey Series, THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK. Instead of Morgantown, HELLBENDER is set in the mountains of West Virginia, and with Miller’s descriptive skill, I got to experience the flora and fauna of the Appalachians: the sights, sounds, and smells of a place I’ve never been but now felt like I was there.
The Collinses have been feuding with the Lewises for years. And their animosity comes to a head when Henry Collins buries his little sister in the cold, hard ground. Janie is a victim of the Lewises’ malicious spellcraft. Teaming up with love interest Alex, Henry learns she’s adept at the old hills magic that women in both families practice—for good and for evil.
Besides the magic and intriguing family characterization, Miller loads on the action like a railroad car full of coal, stoking the engine toward a violent destination.
I dig Miller’s turns of phrase, his depiction of local color and customs, his description of the rural milieu, and his demonstration of forces supernatural. If you believe in magic—or want to—you owe it to yourself to read HELLBENDER. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
You can connect with Jason on Twitter @JasonJackMiller. HELLBENDER is available in trade paperback from Raw Dog Screaming Press or for Kindle at Amazon.com.
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Jason Jack Miller’s Debut Novel Available on Amazon.com
It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly impressed with a debut novel, but I am with this one. Instead of writing a book report, I’ll share my feelings about what’s being categorized as “Appalachian Gothic.”
This book is so real it’s incredible. The characters are real; they live and breathe and struggle with addictions. The setting is real; I’m there as the West Virginia winter turns to spring in the mountains and in the city. The heartache is real; I groaned out loud for the pain of Preston Black both past and present. And most of all the music is real; I wanted to sing along and tap my foot to the jam. I really wish there was a soundtrack to this book—I’d buy it in a heartbeat.
Miller knows his characters and his music and has created a milieu so real you can’t help but be caught up and swept toward the inevitable doom that his devil has planned.
You catch a few whiffs of something sinister through the first half of the book—plenty to let you know what’s coming as you get invested in the hopes and fears of Preston Black, legend in the making. There’s somewhat of a long build-up, but when it finally hits the fan, it’s a shitstorm of epic proportions, made all the worse because your heart’s tied up with Preston, who only wants to find his father and make it as a musician.
Miller knows how to turn a phrase, and he does so to great effect. I often laughed out loud at his wit and humor.
All in all, THE DEVIL was a terrific read, and extremely satisfying. This is what great fiction should be. I hope for more from this talented writer.
Check out THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK at Amazon.com.
Visit Jason at his blog: http://jasonjackmiller.blogspot.com/
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