Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

People Are Bound to Die in Laird Barron’s Black Mountain


  • G.P. Putnam's Sons
Isaiah Coleridge is the guy with “Bad Motherfucker” stitched across the front of his wallet; the man who drinks your milkshake; the lunatic who transports a corpse down an elevator with “NOW I HAVE A MACHINE GUN — HO-HO-HO” Sharpied across its chest. He’s the tough-guy protagonist with a closet of skeletons. Once he worked as a contract killer in Alaska, but something went wrong, and he ended up exiled to New York. He claims to be out of the game, but is any ex-mobster truly clean?

Early on, when promoting his Isaiah Coleridge series, author Laird Barron described his anti-hero as Jules Winnfield from Pulp Fiction. Have you ever wondered what happened to Jules after the film? He left the restaurant, then... what? Isaiah Coleridge is Barron’s answer to that question.

Apparently, it’s not so easy for a violent gangster to lead a straight life after so many years of sweet, sweet murder.

Black Mountain is the second installment in Barron’s series — following 2018’s Blood Standard — although it works as a standalone. Obviously, it’s preferable to read the first book prior to this one, but if you want to just dive into Black Mountain, you won’t find yourself adrift. It’s heavy with exposition as it attempts to catch new readers up, but this isn’t exactly a complaint, as the voice of Isaiah Coleridge makes for an entertaining read. Like most classic action heroes, he’s practically overflowing with smartass comebacks and observations.

For those not in the know, Laird Barron established himself several years ago as a master of cosmic horror. His short story collections have changed the game in how fans view the genre. So, you can imagine the resulting mixture of confusion and intrigue when he announced a series of noir novels. I’d already read some of his previous material bordering on crime fiction, so I knew he could easily handle the transition.

Of course, that isn’t saying Barron has completely abandoned his horror roots. Both Blood Standard and Black Mountain swim in the murky depths of spookiness. There’s an atmosphere in these novels that rivals the darkest episodes of True Detective. Barron’s prose bites you like a cornered animal. In Black Mountain, the main villain’s a serial killer, except he’s not your typical serial killer — he’s the kind only Laird Barron could conceptualize. I haven’t been more disturbed by a crime novel’s antagonist since Thomas Harris’ titular Red Dragon.

There is no need to dig deep into the plot here. Do you enjoy crime novels? Are you fascinated by investigators hunting down creepy serial killers? Do you like your noir dosed with existential horror? Then stop reading this review and go pick up a copy of Laird Barron’s Black Mountain.

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