Nov. 13, 2020
J. Todd Scott
reviewed by Eric Ellis
Lost River by J. Todd Scott opens with a bang as Little Paris Glasser, one of the main characters, harangues one of his drug runners for the incompetent dumping of a foe’s corpse. From then on, those who enjoy “Southern Noir” and “Grit Lit” know they have a gem on their hands.
In Angel, Kentucky, the Glasser family—made almost untouchable by payoffs and intimidation of many governmental authorities—controls nearly all the illicit activity in the region. Little Paris Glasser, the youngest in the family, is more than happy when people part to avoid his nasty presence. Even better when those in need of his wares share his company, for a price.
Drug Enforcement Agent, Casey Alexander, and her partner have come to Angel to deal with a rash of drug overdose deaths. Violence permeates the area, with dangerous foes from every corner. And on account of the local corruption, both must walk a delicate path when it comes to who to trust, including law enforcement officers in the pocket of the Glasser family.
Everyone is touched and harmed by America’s unquenchable thirst for opioids.
J. Todd Scott tells the story of Lost River in an exceptional way, developing each character—warts and all—to reveal themselves as believable. He paints a striking picture of how substance abuse permeates all aspects of American society, with the wreckage left behind free of glamour or gloss. The novel is not all misery, however, and includes sparks of hope when it comes to these destructive substances and their toll.
The bottom line: J. Todd Scott is the real deal. Readers are encouraged to seek out his earlier novels, especially if they enjoy the writings of Daniel Woodrell, William Gay, Ace Atkins, Larry Brown, Tom Franklin, and other (too many to name) fine writers of Southern Noir.