Black Forest
by J. Scott Boyd Services

"The only thing you need to know about me is Smirnoff, two 1.75 liter bottles. V8, six 12-ounce cans. Open. Chug. Chase. As she says this her hands start trembling."

Jack Larson and his best friend, Cash, live a life of smoking weed, hanging out, popping pills, getting high on video games, and taking frequent jaunts to the local corner store to quench their hankering for Slushie D’s and peppermint schnapps. Added to this is the Kola Kountry soda for its valuable and “mandatory” kick of caffeine. Jack’s dad walked out on fifteen-year-old Jack two years ago in this small mountain town, and the need to find out exactly what happened to his father has led him to a pretty scary place in life. The local cops have their theory; Jack has his own. This has led him to strengthen his friendship with Cash, whose birth-name is Johnny Cash McDermid, and who just so happens to be a genius when it comes to mathematics. Interestingly, Cash’s gift in that area becomes beneficial in this environment where the lifestyle is foggy and dazed—both literally and metaphorically.

Jack’s world changes when the friends dare to visit the mysterious Black Forest Inn, an abandoned guesthouse rumored to be a secret enclave for a local band of neo-Nazi white supremacists. After much debate between the two friends over whether to bring guns and such, they discover 7.2 million dollars in “Nazi gold” hidden strategically in the enclave. They hatch a plan to sneak their way onto the grounds of the inn, and this risky action results in Cash breaking his arm from falling off a ladder so badly that the bloody bone juts out through his skin. Jack and Cash, with their stoner lifestyle and constant sex parties full of laid-back girls and beer, become entangled in a rivalry of a brutal sort with the local band of Nazis who are hell-bent on getting their twice-stolen golden fortune back. So bloodthirsty are these racist thugs (in a mostly white, poor town), that violence—including murder and torture—would be the least of their concerns.

Author Boyd’s harrowing work blends a coming-of-age novel with the thriller, horror, and crime genres, with an ample dose of violence and revenge thrown in for good measure. It can no doubt be viewed as being quite relevant to many unhealthy, hot, and lingering issues with which certain segments of today’s society need to deal. Among these are the heartbreaking country’s rise in both radical hatred, political and religious polarization, the escalating epidemic of self-medication with methamphetamine and opioid abuse, extreme poverty, and how any one of these issues can often lead to another. For example, through the plot and characters, connections are made between impoverishment and drug abuse.

It should be noted that much of the book’s narrative contains “trigger warnings” for those who have suffered such abuse or chemical dependence. These include a high level of extreme profanity, sexual abuse, substance addiction, juvenile delinquency, reckless conduct disorders, and gang lifestyle with its wanton violence. Boyd earned his master’s degree in clinical psychology and is a therapist, helping adults and adolescents who struggle with addiction, trauma, and depression. He has worked as a clinical case manager in the Boulder County Jail, where his focus was on helping inmates return to the community after release. His experiences in this line of work, he says, have informed the plot and characters in this, his debut novel.

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