Young Henry Phipps is on a quest to realize his dying mother’s last wish: to be buried at sea, surrounded by her family. Not an easy task considering Henry’s ne’er-do-well father is in debtor’s prison and his comically earnest older brother is busy fighting the red coats on the battlefields of Maryland. But Henry’s stubborn determination knows no bounds. As he dodges the cannon fire of clashing armies and picks among the ruins of a burning capital he meets looters, British defectors, renegade slaves, a pregnant maiden in distress, and scoundrels of all types. Mad Boy is at once an antic adventure and a thoroughly convincing work of historical fiction that recreates a young nation’s first truly international conflict and a key moment in the history of the emancipation of African-American slaves.
Entertaining, atmospheric, and touching, Mad Boy will transport readers with its cast of vivid characters, its masterful storytelling, and its poignant tale of a young man burdened by an outsized undertaking.
“Nick Arvin is an immensely gifted writer, and he has given us a thrilling, soulful book.”
—David Wroblewdki, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle on The Reconstructionist
“This compact, intense first novel…evokes the nightmare into which soldiers are suddenly thrown.”
—The New York Times Review of Books on Articles of War
“This brilliant musket blast of a novel—in which the lucky reader will encounter falling cows, repurposed pickle barrels, fascinating schemes and fabulous schemers—is alive with humor, heat and heart. Mad Boy is a tremendous accomplishment. Nick Arvin is the real thing.”
—Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road
Nick Arvin’s first novel, Articles of War (Arrow, 2006), was named one of the best books of the year by Esquire, The Independent, and several US publications. It won the Rosenthal Foundation Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Boyd Award. His second novel, The Reconstructionist (Windmill Books, 2012), was described as “thrilling and soulful” by David Wroblewski and was selected by Amazon as a Best Book of the Month. Arvin’s fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and numerous other periodicals. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop.