Jason Jack Miller continues his fascinating exploration of ancient Appalachian magic, the power of music, and the war for a man’s soul with The Revelations of Preston Black, the third book in his “Murder Ballads and Whiskey” series.
If you haven’t read the first two in that series, The Devil and Preston Black and Hellbender, I strongly urge that you do so. Revelations works just fine as a stand-alone novel, but the events covered here are deeply entwined in those first two books. You’ll appreciate what’s going on here more, and you’ll thank me for introducing you not to just one good book, but a whole trifecta.
The events of this book kick off when touring musician Preston Black, on stage with his creative partner and lover Katy Stefanic, references a deal with the devil. As we all know, demonic references span music history from the crossroads of Robert Johnson to the bat-biting antics of Ozzy Osbourne and up to present day. That they’ve been around for a while doesn’t make them any more popular with certain groups, however, and Black’s remark puts him and Katy both square in the crosshairs of a preachin’ man by the name of Elijah Clay Hicks. Hicks has an army of believers and the Good Word at his disposal, and he’s not afraid to wield them both in the name of righteousness.
Katy disappears, and Black, naturally, goes after her. But his hunt takes him far beyond the dirt roads of Mississippi and Alabama – he’s got to go a little darker, a little deeper, and he does just that in an absolutely riveting “baptism” scene that really kicks Revelations into overdrive. Black is soon joined on his mission by some unusual allies, including a trio of dead legends in Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Joe Strummer – men who speak to Black through their music (and, when time is of the essence, text messaging).
Miller’s ability continues to grow as the “Murder Ballads and Whiskey” series marches forward. The writing here is as rich and fertile as Black Belt soil. These are characters that live beyond the page, and Miller brings his locales to vivid life. His deep and abiding love of music bleeds through every sentence, and not just in random name-checking or lyric quoting; it shows in the very rhythm and cadence of his work. Just as men like Cash and Lennon poured their souls out through their songs, you feel that same dedication to craft in Miller’s writing. His is a talent that’s going to continue to mature, and I for one am excited to be in on the ground floor.
The Revelations of Preston Black is no breezy summer read. It is a book to settle in with, to sip at slowly and savor (just like the two books before it). Like a good song, you want to just sit back and let this one wash over you.
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The Revelations of Preston Black by Jason Jack Miller
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.
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