The Devil and Preston Black (Murder Ballads and Whiskey) - Jason Jack Miller Synopsis:Life of Preston Black has never been easy but when he reaches 27 everything seems to be going to the devil double fast. He is a musician and all of a sudden his beloved band is falling apart - the drummer, Stu, is being sent to Afganistan and Pauly, his foster brother, decides he’s had enough of drinking and playing covers. Then Preston falls in love with Dani, a mysterious woman from the Czech Republic who works as a translator and, like him, has no family of her own; although she readily offers him a warm bed and a meal when he needs it the most she also starts cheating on him from the very beginning. Maybe she acts strange because she is from Europe or maybe she considers Preston to be just another nice white trash boy? Anyway she turns his life upside down like a force of nature.Then he finds in a record store a very strange and pessimistic song about the devil and Preston Black. He buys the record and keeps wondering – just a coincidence or a pointer leading to his unknown father? Is it the right time to start anew or maybe to cash in the chips like many other more famous and more successful musicians before? Who keeps sending him strange texts from an unknown number? Preston decides to try once again – he sells his old instruments, buys a new, acoustic guitar and heads south to find an old singer who knows the rest of that elusive song and maybe also his destiny. Will the Devil follow him? Who will control his life? Can things go even more wrong? Yes, they can.What I liked:It was a good interesting story, smoothly told in limited first person. It was gritty, without any maudlin moments - maybe because of that I felt for Preston almost all the time. He seemed so lost and so twisted despite the fact that he just wanted to make a career as an independent musician. Katy, his other romantic interest, was nice as well – she was such a sweet contrast to that absinthe- swilling, unstable smart-pants Dani. I also liked the fact that there was no baddie here. The devil was in people, including the main character, bad and good people but mostly ordinary people who tried very hard to be good but still managed only average. Preston, deep in the doldrums says: “My life had become a Chinese take-out fortune, a receipt for a guitar that cost way too much money, a thirty characters text, a name no a faded concert flier stuck to a light pole with rusty nails, footprints disappearing with the melting snow, a black and white picture in a high school year book.”That’s the start of pure evil – feeling you are worth nothing at all. I also learned a lot – those differenty types of guitars were a bit misleading at first (especially that the author uses different abbreviations) but I googled them and I was fine afterwards. I appreciated the bits about Appalachian folkloreWhat I didn’t like:I really resent the fact that there is no cd or at least a play list attached to this book. It is all about music after all, and nobody is perfect – I knew some of these songs (Metallica, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and of course those ugly, stupid boys from Duran Duran ;p ) but some of them went right above my head and I wish they hadn’t. My last carping: the voice of Preston was good but I would love to hear some words from the mouth of the devil. I am strange like that.Final verdict: A surprisingly good debut – I would like to read more!