Brooding, edgy, and sometimes violent, Controlled Burn's loosely linked stories are each in some way a distillation of hard time, spent either in prison, the backwoods of Vermont, or the badlands of the American West. Peopled by boxers, drunks, truck drivers, murderers, bounty hunters, drifters traveling under assumed names, and men whose luck ran out a thousand miles ago, these stories feel hard-won from life, and if they are moody and stark, so too are they filled with human longing.
Controlled Burn is divided into two sections: "The Northeast Kingdom" and "The Fugitive West". In each, Scott Wolven reveals a broken world where there is no bottom left to hit. In the haunting "Outside Work Detail", convicts stoically dig graves for their fellow prisoners yet reserve their deepest grief for the senseless death of a deer. "Crank" introduces Red Green, a maniacally brilliant addict who brews his own crystal meth in a backwoods lab, and whose high-energy antics inspire both cautious admiration and mortal fear in his business associates. In "Ball Lightning Reported", Red Green's ultimate fate is revealed. In "Atomic Supernova", a revenge-obsessed sheriff deputizes a known cop-killer to help him hunt down a counterfeiter and drug lord. The unexpectedly tender and heartbreaking "The Copper Kings" concerns a father facing the dark truth behind his son's disappearance. And in "Vigilance", a hunted man struggles to escape his past, always yearning for an honorable yet perhaps unreachable future.
©2005 Scott Wolven; (P)2005 Tantor Media, Inc.
"The most exciting, authentic collection of short stories I have read in years.¿" (George Pelecanos)
I gave this four stars because Scott Wolven's stories are excellent. The narrator, though, is loud, tries to gives the characters "voices" - a mistake, unless you're very good, or very subtle - and when reading descriptions of landscape, the sky or the trees or the grass, pronounces everything with a cheesy announcer's flourish, so that you can imagine him waving an open hand to draw the picture in the air: "The skyyy was brilliant bluuue... with one... perfect... white cloud... drifting." You get used to it after a while but the narrator really softens the stories' punch.
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