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"Millerclearly has confidence in his voice and style, and in the story he came to tell.He cuts no corners and makes no compromises, resulting in a thoughtful bookthat requires - and rewards - your patience."-Blu Gilland, FEARNET "CertainlyMiller isn't the first writer to move from independent publishing to the moretraditional. If fact, he's probably not even the first good writer to make theswitch (or the first good writer to publish independently). But his attitudestoward the publishing process and his willingness to state, rather loudly, that"No matter how you are published, or who publishes you, you ARE an independentwriter" seem to make him just as original as the book itself."-Catherine Ramsdell POPMATTERS
From the Author
About the cover: "If you follow music,art, and culture of the American South, sooner or later you're bound to runinto the letters, images, and unmistakable "look" of Hatch ShowPrint. We're one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America, andover the years our posters have featured a host of country music performers,ranging from Country Music Hall of Famers Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, and Johnny Cash to contemporary stars such as GarthBrooks and Wynonna."-Hatch Show Print, Nashville, Tennessee.
Other reviews have focused on the plot, or the characters. I agree with most of the reviews. I enjoyed the story and got to know some well developed characters. This review will focus on other details--the writing--that ties those characters and the plot together into an excellent work of fiction.
Jason Jack Miller is a craftsman. His writing reflects the kind of painstaking attention to detail that a master carpenter devotes to intricate carvings or inlays on a piece of furniture. He is at his best when he is describing human behavior. These details show that he understands the complexities of human behavior, and incorporating them makes his characters much more human, and thus, his story much more realistic.
Miller is at his best at describing those parts of human behavior which most of us do, but seldom take notice of. For example, Preston Black at one point finds himself "simultaneously nodding at and hiding from people I thought I might know." In another instance, Preston "opened my mouth, a placeholder for the things I meant to say..." In another instance, "my eyes dropped, like they sometimes do when maybe you let just a little too much of yourself out for everybody to see and you wish you could just take it all back." In each of these instances, I understood exactly what Preston was experiencing, and it helped me identify with Preston and the other characters in the book.
Miller also skillfully employs similies in his descriptions. For example, "Her words curled in, like old movie posters, and her lips didn't move very much." Or one of my favorites, he describes a mountain highway that "twisted like shoelaces through a pair of Chuck Taylors."
These details are what make the characters more complex, and what move the story along. They make "The Devil and Preston Black" a very enjoyable read.
My childhood home was pretty deceptive looking. On the outside it looked like a mobile home, but it had an addition built on to it, a massive den the size of the two bedrooms combined. This was everyone's sanctuary, with mom's sewing table in a corner, dad's massive pile of books in another and a card table that served as my arts and crafts table in later years but served as a gaming or puzzle table pretty much all the time.
At the far wall was the big built-in entertainment center, The TV sat high center, with all of the electronics on a shelf above it. On the shelf below the TV sat all the musical equipment, a reciever, a tape deck, in later years, a CD player and on top of all that, the record player. On either end were massive shelves filled to the brim with vinyl. I spent a good chunk listening to it, all of it. I had my favorites of course, guilty pleasures too, but I tried to take it all in. In the intervening years I'm still not sure I scratched the surface (Ha, see what I did there!) of the collection. But I loved all of it and am suddenly sad I didn't spend more time at the alter of the player. I probably would have had I not damaged the needle when I was eleven, which took my parents entirely too long to get fixed.
The Devil and Preston Black is exactly what the title says it is. It's a book about Preston Black, a down-on-his-luck musician just trying to find his way and having to fight the devil to do it. It's about wayward rock idols, old music, ways of life on the verge of extinction and the character trying to figure out who he is when his entire history was a blank page. It's about music giving a life meaning when that life can't find the meaning on his own.
If Hellbender was my childhood diner, then The Devil and Preston Black is the den of my childhood home, filled with scratched vinyl and tuneful music both new and old. I haven't been this at home in a book in a long time, if you consider a place where the main character has very philosophical text conversations with Joe Strummer, argues with John Lennon and where Jerry Garcia's death bed felt quaint home, which I do.
But the book isn't just filled with musicians no longer with us, it's filled to the brim with music, so lively and fluid it came right off the page. I got into a twitter discussion with Jason Jack Miller where he mentioned that he was worried that the sections in which he described the music being played were too tedious, but to me they were some of the best parts because I was transported into the music. I haven't been able to read sheet music since around ninth grade and the talking about chord progressions wasn't something I understood, but it's something I felt. I could feel how the music was taking place around him, how it progressed and shifted and was shaped while the characters were playing it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm probably gonna run right out and by The Revelations of Preston Black just to be a completist. I'm giving this one an A+. It invoked my parents record collection for crying out loud. Any book that can do that gets an A+.
The Devil and Preston Black is that special kind of book that transports the reader into a different place and time. The setting and music are so vivid, they act as supporting characters. Preston is the hero who is easily to relate to. He's the good guy at heart who makes bad decisions. Whose uncertainty about his roots keeps him locked in a spiral of destruction. Knowing the good in his heart kept me glued to the prose with a constant tension hoping the other characters would continue to believe in Preston as much as I did.
I look forward to continuing on Preston's adventure.
Preston Black is an orphan who knew neither of his parents growing up. At 27, he's in a rock band, desperately wants to be famous, but feels like he's on a path to destruction. Nothing ever pans out for Preston. It all ends in a pile of ashes and regret.
On the same day he meets a strange but beautiful woman, Preston discovers a song his father might have recorded. Equally obsessed with the song and the woman, Preston embarks on a quest of self discovery. Little does he know he's playing for keeps. One object of his desire could be his salvation. The other could destroy him forever. Can Preston can redeem himself and advance his musical career or will the devil win?
I loved Preston Black's voice. Mr. Miller did a fine job of making me want to find out what happened to him. The novel itself reminded me a lot of the song "To Beat the Devil." But not the way Johnny Cash sang it. Instead, this novel plays out like Kris Kristofferson's original, stripped down, rough, and beautiful. I could hear the music, smell the absinthe, and feel Preston's frustration.