Book Review by Roy E. Perry—Lee Smith’s “Black Mountain Breakdown”

Editor’s Note:  Roy E. Perry, the self-described “amateur philosopher”  of Nolensville, Tennessee, wrote book reviews for The Tennessean and Nashville Banner for more than 30 years. We are proud to feature periodic book reviews by Mr. Perry in Underground Nashville. Following is Mr. Perry’s review of Black Mountain Breakdown by acclaimed Southern novelist Lee Smith:


Black Mountain Breakdown by Lee Smith is a cautionary tale featuring the protagonist, Crystal Renee Spangler, an intelligent, beautiful, and gifted young woman. Because of tragic experiences—she is raped on the same day her father dies—and poor moral choices stemming from a desperate desire to be loved—she suffers a debilitating “nervous breakdown.” It’s not a pretty picture, but is told in fascinating, colorful detail, with artistry, creativity, and memorable poetic language.

Black Mountain Breakdown, like Ms. Smith’s other novels—such as The Devil’s Dream and Oral History—portrays the often-eccentric people who eke out a hard-scrabble living in the various “hollers” (sic) of Appalachia. Ms. Smith has an acute ear for Southern dialect and a perceptive eye for her characters’ hopes and dreams, their religion (or lack of it), their laughter and tears, their stoic endurance through difficult times, their flaws, faults, and foibles. Anyone who loves the genre of Southern literature should appreciate and enjoy the artistry of Black Mountain Breakdown.

About the Author:

Lee Smith was born in 1944 in Grundy, Virginia, a small coal-mining town in the Appalachian Mountains. The author of eight novels (critics esteem her novel Fair and Tender Ladies as her best) and two collections of short stories, she currently lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit:

David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of “Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels “Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and “Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at Dave also is a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising / marketing / public relations writer.

Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit and “like” the page on Facebook:

Do you want to help homeless people in Nashville learn culinary arts and other employment skills that provide a specific, effective path off the streets? Please visit and consider making a financial contribution. Any amount is very helpful and appreciated. Thank you.


Editor’s Note: “Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering “thoughts from the shadows of a great American city.”

Dave Carew



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