Synopses & Reviews
Fans of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood
and John Berendt's In the Garden of Good and Evil
will embrace Poe Ballantine's Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere
For well over twenty years Poe Ballantine traveled America, taking odd jobs, living in small rooms, and wondering the big whys. At age forty-six he finally settled with his Mexican wife in Chadron, Nebraska, where they had a son who was red-flagged as autistic. Poe published four books about his experiences as a wanderer and his observations of America and its people, but one day in 2006 his neighbor, Steven Haaja, a math professor from the local state college, disappeared. Ninety-five days later the professor was found burned to death and tied to a tree in the hills behind the campus where he taught. No one, law enforcement included, understood the circumstances. Poe had never contemplated writing mystery or true crime, but since he knew all the players, the suspects, the sheriff, the police involved, he and his kindergarten son set out to find out what might have happened.
Love and Terror is not only a six-year examination of this case, but of Poe's eccentric High Plains town, its kooky residents, his rocky marriage to a beautiful Mexican woman, and his purportedly autistic son.
"Poe Ballantine is brilliant, sensitive, unique, and universal. Reading his work is inspiring, agitating, and invigorating. He is utterly transparent on the page, a rare thing. He's like a bird that's almost but not quite extinct. This is his best book ever." Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild
"Poe Ballantine's prose cuts right to the bone (the one that's stuck in Americas throat), but manages to preserve not only the sweetest meat but the barbecue sauce, as well. Mark Twain would have admired his wit, and had Oscar Wilde read him, he would have bought an old Ford pickup and moved to Nebraska the day he got out of the slammer, hoping that some of his style rubbed off on him. A book without style is like a swan without feathers it's just another plucked chicken but this new one of Ballantine's is in its funky way majestic as it zigzags downstream. Poe Ballantine is the most soulful, insightful, funny, and altogether luminous 'under-known' writer in America. He knocks my socks off, even when I'm barefoot." Tom Robbins, author of Villa Incognito
"Ballantine's writing is secure insecurity at its best, muscular and minimal, self-deprecating on the one hand, full of the self's soul on the other.” Lauren Slater, Lying
"If the delights of either Poe Ballantine or Chadron, Nebraska were a secret, that is over now. Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere is an unprecedented combination of all of the following: true crime page-turner, violently funny portrait of a tiny Western town, field guide to saving a bilingual marriage and raising an autistic child, sutra on living with open mind and big heart. Many of the sentences start on earth and end somewhere in beat-poet heaven. Ballantine comes ever closer to being my favorite creative nonfiction writer and this is why. Marion Winik, Above Us Only Sky, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, and NPR correspondent
About the Author
Poe Ballantine's work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Sun, Kenyon Review,
and The Coal City Review.
In addition to garnering numerous Pushcart and O. Henry nominations, Mr. Ballantine's work has also been included in The Best American Short Stories 1998
and The Best American Essays 2006
Cheryl Strayed is the author of the number-one New York Times bestseller Wild, the New York Times bestseller Tiny Beautiful Things, and the novel Torch Wild was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her first selection for Oprah's Book Club 2.0 and optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon's production company, Pacific Standard. Strayed has written the "Dear Sugar" column on TheRumpus.net since March 2010. Her writing has appeared in The Best American Essays, the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post Magazine, Vogue, Allure, The Missouri Review, Creative Nonfiction, The Sun and elsewhere. Her books have been translated into twenty-six languages around the world.