Praise for Mad Boy
"You have to love a book that starts like this: A cow falls through the roof of a house, landing on Mother. . . ’Mad Boy’ is a great success, a mini-epic in just 238 pages.” The Denver Post
"A joyously earthy tale about a fascinating period of American history, Mad Boy combines the luxurious period detail of Wolf Hall with the deadpan comedy of True Grit."Sandra Newman, author of The Country of Ice Cream Star
"With its cast of deserters and turncoats, clowns, scoundrels, Mad Boy is a bloody, rollicking picaresque."Stewart O'Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying
" Mad Boy is a terrific achievement. There's a vicious black humor at work here, underpinning the larger bend of the story in a way that keeps you guessing. As each new character arrives fully formed, like they've stepped out of the archive, you wonder how Arvin will keep it all together. The best part is, he does."Rohan Wilson, author of To Name Those Lost
" Mad Boy 's hero is an unforgettable creation, and his adventures move at the most satisfyingly calibrated speeds. You'll want to race through the book to see what Henry does or whom or what he encounters next, but you'll also want to slow down and savor the storytelling magic."John Francisconi, Bank Square Books
"Arvin has produced a curious and fanciful historical novel with eccentric characters staged in a rainy and fetid world of unforgiving nature and political circumstance. Occasionally ‘laugh out loud’ funny, this somewhat facile work will entertain fans of dark humor, convoluted adventure stories, and historical drama.” Library Journal
“Arvin’s unusual tale brings warmth to the otherwise horrific drama of wartime.” Booklist
"The colorful characters make this account of the War of 1812 a rollicking page-turner." Publishers Weekly
“A wartime coming-of-age story filled with nonstop action and genuine pathos.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"This brilliant musket blast of a novel–in which the lucky reader will encounter falling cows, repurposed pickle barrels, fascinating schemes and fabulous schemers–is alive with humor, heat and heart. Mad Boy is a tremendous accomplishment. Nick Arvin is the real thing."
—Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome
“Humane and brutal but never false, Nick Arvin delivers an illuminating critique of American history and myth.”—Mario Acevedo, author of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
“Arvin masters his epic story of devastation, conflict, love, and family loyalty, all without a splinter of sentimentality. Mad Boy is a feat of magic.” —Erika Krouse, author of Contenders and Come Up and See Me Sometime
"Surreal at times and brutally realistic at others, this novel is a strange amalgam of As I Lay Dying , The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , and The Red Badge of Courage. Nick Arvin is one to watch out for!"
—John Gibbs, Green Apple Books, San Francisco
"It is a testament to a tale well told of a time barely thought about in American history that this time and these folks and our young hero all coalesce into a unique, endearing and truly marvelous story."
—Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield's Books
Praise for Nick Arvin For The Reconstructionist “Nick Arvin is an immensely gifted writer, and he has given us a thrilling, soulful book.” —David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle “Remarkable.” — The Denver Post “A masterpiece of modern fiction.” —Cortright McMeel, author of Short “Nick Arvin has accomplished what only a handful of writers have managed—he has crafted a spare and perfect masterwork.” —Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life For Articles of War “A compact, intense first novel." — New York Times Book Review “Heartbreaking...powerful...unforgettable.” — Chicago Tribune “A gem of a book . . . Beautifully written and timely.” — Washington Post “A textbook example of how clear and precise writing can carry a narrative.” — USA Today
Across the battlefields of the War of 1812, a young boy races to carry out his mother's dying wish and rescue his father.When 10-year-old Henry Phipps' mother is killed in a bizarre accident, he strikes out over the Maryland countryside to give her a burial at sea and free his alcoholic father from the Baltimore prison where his unpaid gambling debts have landed him. Arvin (The Reconstructionist, 2012, etc.) neatly blends conventional narrative, including vivid accounts of the British attack on the "muddy, malarial village" that is Washington, D.C., in August 1814 and the bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose the "Star-Spangled Banner," with refreshing touches of magic realism, like the voice of Henry's deceased mother that guides him at key moments on his perilous journey. Henry is an engaging, resourceful hero of this picaresque tale, displaying endurance, ingenuity, and commendably mature generosity in his frequent encounters with soldiers, thieves, peddlers, and prostitutes, without ever losing passion for his twin goals. The story is seasoned with a well-drawn cast of supporting characters, including Henry's sturdy older brother, Franklin, who survives a mock execution for desertion from his militia unit; a British soldier named Morley, who switches sides to fight with the Americans though his loyalties lie only with himself; and Radnor, a former slave who sees his best chance for permanent liberation in a victory of the redcoat army that welcomes his service. Arvin heightens the drama with a subplot that has several characters engaged in a race to recover two stolen sacks stuffed with gold and silver coin. At less than 250 pages, the novel is a masterpiece of compression without sacrificing character development to the demands of the relentless action and adventure. Sandwiched between the nation-defining glamour of the Revolutionary War and the epic conflict of the Civil War, the War of 1812 hasn't garnered comparable attention in the world of fiction. Arvin's robust novel helps redress that imbalance.A wartime coming-of-age story filled with nonstop action and genuine pathos.