- Virginia Johnson
The Alleghenies are a wild, harsh place. Starkly beautiful and unforgiving, these mountains that run through southern West Virginia have been home to farmers working small plots of land for generations and others who mine coal. For most, there is a razor-thin margin between survival and death, especially for those who look to nature to supplement their existence. For her part, nature, as Matthew Neill Null plainly shows in his Allegheny Front stories, does not care.
I-64 may have taken away a lot of traffic, but newcomers still find their way there. Luxury cabins. Guided white water adventures. A far cry from fighting off raptors trying to steal your chickens. So, the raptor happens to be a bald eagle. The game warden is your old hunting buddy— that should square it, right?
On the Allegheny Front, an afternoon on the river is a fine thing for sunbathing locals. But tourists will have their excitement, not quite realizing that they aren’t on a carefully calibrated amusement park ride. Their lives depend partially on the flow of the cascading water and partially on the whims of a man they think is beneath them.
This is an award-winning collection from a writer who clearly understands the darkness and daylight that dapple a human soul taking root in such an environment. The Allegheny Front is an actual geologic feature that creates terrain as beautiful and forbidding as the flat top called Dolly Sods. Some of it has been scraped over and dug into for mining, but its craggy nature makes finding ways in—or out—more of a challenge than most are capable of overcoming.
If you’d care to lose yourself, story by story, step by step, in the visceral wilds of nature and the human heart, you’ll like this one.