Author: Marietta Miles
Publisher: All Due Respect
Release Date: February 2016
Route 12 by Marietta Miles comprises two evocative, disturbing novellas set in Appalachia in the 1960s and 1970s. These are bleak stories about people who have been dealt a rotten hand by life: a boy dragged into reform school at an early age, due to his mother’s unhealthy lifestyle choices – only to emerge with a violent disregard for society; a girl crippled by a bad dose of polio vaccine, and left friendless and exposed; a drunken mother desperate for cash who makes a terrible mistake… In these pitch-black stories the characters’ choices define them – for better or worse.
Marietta Miles brings a gothic intensity to these tales of damaged small town lives, which seem to congeal in the worst way imaginable. Opening story ‘Route 12’ is the jewel in the tarnished crown – a tremendous, nastily memorable piece of work. Chief protagonist Percy is a horribly damaged young man, whose queasy charisma sucks a pair of vulnerable young girls into his sick orbit. Miles displays an unfailingly sharp eye for detail, teasing small, haunting nuggets out of the plot, and imbuing the drama with a skin-crawling level of tension.
While the title story will likely attract the most attention, B-side cut ‘Blood & Sin’ is no less compelling, and the character of Pastor Danny Friend is a true literary grotesque. Although it feels like the story has the life choked out of it just as it starts getting really twisted, the gruelling content still packs one hell of a punch.
All in all, a dark, unsettling pair of novellas that adds a bold, new dimension to the All Due Respect slate. Impressive, distinctive work from Marietta Miles.
Reviewed by Tom Leins