THIS WEEK’S OTHER FEATURED BOOK, RODGER LeGRAND’S POETRY COLLECTION “MILLIONS OF RAVENOUS CREATURES,” CAN BE FOUND BY SCROLLING DOWN BELOW THIS POST, ALONG WITH THIS MONTH’S “FIRST TUESDAY REPLAY.” OR JUST CLICK ON RODGER’S NAME ON OUR AUTHOR PAGE.
THE BOOK: Brown Bottle
PUBLISHED IN: 2016
THE AUTHOR: Sheldon Lee Compton
THE EDITOR: Larry Smith
THE PUBLISHER: Bottom Dog Press
SUMMARY: Wade “Brown Bottle” Taylor is an alcoholic uncle trying to protect his nephew Nick from the hardness of their region, Eastern Kentucky, and the world in general. To end Nick’s involvement with drugs and drug dealers in the area, Brown must first save himself, overcoming a lifetime spent convinced he is unworthy. Brown Bottle’s journey is one of selflessness and love, redemption and sacrifice, if only for a time.
THE BACK STORY: “When I was young, say around six or seven, my step-uncle Pete, the youngest brother of my alcoholic stepfather Doug, more or less stood in as my father for a few years. He played with me, gave me advice about fighting and how to throw a baseball, how to bait a hook, and various other important things. He also gave me and my mom support during the long hours we would sit up waiting for Doug to come home from another wild tear.
“Most importantly, he somehow made us laugh. He distracted us from the daily darkness in the best of ways. One day all those years later, I got to thinking about Pete and about how young he was then (probably still in his teens, to my calculations) and how much he took on by doing all that. I wanted to somehow honor that sacrifice and write him as a hero. But I wanted the character to be a bit more flawed. So naturally I tossed in a few of Doug’s traits for him to overcome and then gave him a messed up kid to look after and I had the framework of my book. I feel pretty good about what I was able to do in that sense.”
WHY THIS TITLE: I had originally written a short story titled “Purpose” that was included in my first published book, a short story collection. In this story was a character who would later become the protagonist of this later novel. I nicknamed him Brown Bottle, though his Christian name was Wade. I thought of Brown Bottle because, as an alcoholic he was often seen carrying either a bottle of beer (brown in color, of course) or a bottle of liquor (also brown). The nickname sounded like a perfect title to me, and when I think of a title that clicks that way for me, I rarely ever change my mind.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Brown Bottle is a true hero story. The journey of a broken and flawed individual who sacrifices the better parts of himself for an innocent youth who is in peril. Along the way he faces the highest levels of corruption, modern day sirens, powerful contemporary potions, and even humans in the form of the most grotesque and heartless monsters imaginable. It’s a tragic but uplifting version of the hero’s journey told against an Eastern Kentucky backdrop recognizable to any rural citizen the world over.
REVIEW COMMENTS: “Sheldon Lee Compton is one of the new young breed of Kentucky writers — talented, fearless, and strong — bringing us word from the hills. — Chris Offutt, author of Kentucky Straight
“Sheldon Lee Compton is a hillbilly Bukowski, one of the grittiest writers to come down the pike since Larry Brown, and Brown Bottle is his best work yet.” — Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff and The Devil All the Time
“Brown Bottle, by Sheldon Lee Compton, is a bottleneck blues of a novel, played at midnight, harsh, unsparing, and real as hell. Brown Bottle the man is also someone you won’t forget. His story has emotional and moral weight. You won’t read a better novel this year.” — Rusty Barnes, author of Ridgerunner
“With striking authenticity, Compton delivers a story that is at once tender and a punch straight to the gut. Brown Bottle is honest, heartbreaking and echoing with desperation rendered in precise, razor-sharp prose. Sheldon Lee Compton writes with a reckoning force.” — Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked.
“Sheldon Lee Compton’s Brown Bottle is a sharply written story of a man scorched by circumstances but who embodies Harry Crews’ dictum that survival is triumph enough. Compton articulates the real hardscrabble world of contemporary Kentucky Appalachia he so intimately understands, writing with stark and powerful but emotionally subtle voice. Readers of Chris Offutt and Breece Pancake will have an accomplished new author to add to their shelves.” — Charles Dodd White, author of A Shelter of Others and Sinners of Sanction County.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Sheldon Lee Compton is a short story writer, novelist, and poet from Eastern Kentucky. He is the author of three books – the short story collections The Same Terrible Storm (Foxhead Books, 2012) Where Alligators Sleep (Foxhead Books, 2014) and the novel Brown Bottle (Bottom Dog Press, 2016). His fiction and poetry has been published in more than 200 journals both online and in print including Unbroken Journal, Gravel, Nailed Magazine, Wigleaf, Five:2:One Magazine, Vending Machine Press, Bartleby Snopes, Atticus Review, New World Writing, Pank, Monkeybicycle, Dogzplot, Fair Folk, decomP, Gone Lawn, Spelk, WhiskeyPaper, Anti-Heroin Chic, gobbet, Fluland, Great Jones Street, and elsewhere.
In 2012, he was a finalist for both the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award and the Still Fiction Award. The Same Terrible Storm was nominated for the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Excellence in Appalachian Writing, while his short stories have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize, as well as Best of the Net, storySouth’s Million Writers Award, and cited in Best Small Fictions 2015 and Best Small Fictions 2016, guest edited by Robert Olen Butler and Stuart Dybek, respectively. Other writing has appeared in the anthologies Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia (Bottom Dog Press, 2010) Walk Till the Dogs Get Mean: Meditations on the Forbidden from Contemporary Appalachia (Ohio University Press, 2015) and Larry Fessenden’s Sudden Storm: A Wendigo Reader (Fiddleblack, 2016).
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I knew this book was going to be a hit and miss with various readers, but I do think the general idea of striving for a better life is something everyone can relate to in some way or another. Mostly I think readers who may not be familiar with Eastern Kentucky could make the false assumption that some of the details in the book are less than realistic. But to be clear, nearly every detail in the book is based on some true story from where I live, even Fay Mullins (the book’s main antagonist) and his backstory. In fact, Fay Mullins is based on a group of four people from my hometown who did exactly the same first murder-for-hire job detailed in Fay’s introductory chapter.
LOCAL OUTLETS: Small Press Distributors
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble