If you live in a small town, you’ve probably experienced it. You run into someone from your past – maybe from elementary or high school – and a flood of memories come back. Sometimes they are good memories and sometimes they are not so good.
That’s what happens to Cabel Walsh in Mike Mallow’s third novel “In The Country Dark.”
Cabel meets his elementary school “best friend” Troy Mason, quite by accident and the two reconnect, but from different perspectives. Their lives after high school took totally different paths.
Troy has survived a drug overdose and just lost another in a series of low-paying jobs.
Cabel, relatively successful, works for a newspaper, but not in his home county. Because of “creative differences” with the publisher of the local paper, Cabel works “two counties over.”
In an effort to help his childhood friend, Cabel gets sucked into a world he only imagined existed in rural West Virginia – a world of drugs, crime and murder.
“In The Country Dark” takes place in the fictional O’Brien County, but could easily be any rural county. “I didn’t want to use real names because I didn’t want to invite comparisons to actual people,” Mallow said.
The story started out in Mallow’s mind as a comedy about dumb criminals. “I really like the Cohen brothers and their way of combining funny situations with very serious ramifications,” he said.
Like Cabel Walsh, Mallow works for a newspaper in Hardy County, just one county over from his home in Pendleton County. He is the advertising/production manager of the Moorefield Examiner.
During the course of those long drives, the story changed from a comedy to a drama. And while certain aspects of the story come from Mallow’s own experience, it is not totally autobiographical.
“Probably 75 percent of Cabel’s childhood in the book relates to my experiences,” he said. “There is not a lot of elements of my adulthood.”
“In The Country Dark” is totally different from Mallow’s first two novels. “Heartspark” and “Fairchance” are sci-fi adventures, complete with time travel, black holes and artificial intelligence.
“Those books took me years to formulate,” Mallow said. “This one took me about a month. It all came together as I was driving back and forth to work.”
Shortly after the Navy base at Sugar Grove Pendleton County closed, there were rumors a movie studio was looking to purchase the property. “I wanted to write a story that might be attractive to a movie studio, something they could film locally,” Mallow said.
“In The Country Dark” will appeal to anyone who grew up in a small town or anyone who experienced the loss of a friend at a young age.
“People from small towns know what it’s like having a hard time moving up if you don’t have the right last name,” Mallow said. “Unfortunately, with the raging opioid crisis, most of us can relate to losing someone as a result of drugs. Some of us can relate to losing someone in high school.”
“In The Country Dark” has received accolades from national book reviewers. It was listed as one of Barnes & Nobel’s Top Indie Favorites. It received 5 out of 5 Stars from Readers’ Favorite and the Gold Award from Literary Titans.
“In The Country Dark” is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Applebooks and Cobo. It is available locally at the Moorefield Examiner in Hardy County, Long Mountain General Store and Brandywine General Store in Pendleton County.
Mallow is a native of Pendleton County and lives there with his wife and daughter.