‘Nitro Mountain’ Author Lee Clay Johnson Joins Writers Speak March 7

"Nitro Mountain" author Lee Clay Johnson
"Nitro Mountain" author Lee Clay Johnson, Photo: Sasha Wiseman

Novelist Lee Clay Johnson will be the next guest in the spring Writers Speak Wednesdays series of free author talks and readings at Stony Brook Southampton. Johnson will read from and talk about his work on Wednesday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the Radio Lounge on the second floor of Chancellors Hall.

Johnson’s novel, Nitro Mountain (Knopf), won the 2017 Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has appeared in Lit Hub, the Oxford American, The Common, Appalachian Heritage, Salamander, and the Mississippi Review. He holds a BA from Bennington College and an MFA from the University of Virginia. He grew up around Nashville in a family of bluegrass musicians, and currently lives in St. Louis and New York City.

Set in a bitterly benighted, mine-polluted corner of Virginia, Nitro Mountain follows a group of people bound together by alcohol, small-time crime and music. There’s Leon, a hapless bass player who can embroil himself in trouble just by getting out of bed in the morning. And his would-be girlfriend, Jennifer, who’s living with Arnett, the town’s most dangerous thug—and hoping Leon will help her poison him. And there’s Arnett himself, a psychopath for the ages—albeit so charming and deranged, so strikingly authentic, that he arrests the reader’s attention at first sight and holds it fast. His mirror image, a singer-songwriter named Jones, has his own moral issues, though at least he’s trying to be a good man. The bright if battered soul who pulls us through this story is Jennifer, a vulnerable yet strong woman struggling heroically to survive the endemic hopelessness and violence that have surrounded her since birth. (Text from the Nitro Mountain book jacket.)

This and all Writers Speak Wednesdays programs are free and open to the public. The evenings begin with a brief reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by a reading/talk at 7 p.m. and then a Q&A and book signing. All programs are held in the Radio Lounge on the second floor of Chancellors Hall at Stony Brook Southampton, located at 239 Montauk Highway in Southampton.

Other writers and programs scheduled for the spring series include: poet Jericho Brown on March 21; Daniel Alarcón and Debora Kuan on April 18; and Melissa Febos and Alex Gilvarry on April 25. The May 2 Writers Speak is devoted to readings by Stony Brook Southampton degree candidates currently enrolled in the MFA in Creative Writing and Literature program.

 For more information, call 631-632-5030 or visit stonybrook.edu/mfa.

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