Best Book by a Local Author - 2009
Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town
Sure, you could fill a small library with recent books on how and why crystal methamphetamine wormed its way into America's heartland. But until you've read Methland, you ain't read nothing. St. Louisan Nick Reding spent nearly four unnerving years wading deep into the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a meatpacking town of 6,772 whose very soul was blackened by crank. Through old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, Reding offers an eyeball-frying account of one drug's power to alter an entire culture — the domestic violence, the exploding backyard crank labs, the trembling, nostril-scarred addicts, the desperate corn farmers reduced to selling small-time cooks the nitrate-rich anhydrous ammonia they spray on their fields. In one unforgettable chapter, Reding writes of the winter night when Roland Jarvis, a 35-year-old divorced dad, blew himself up: "Following one of his trips outside, Jarvis looked down and saw what he thought was egg white on his bare arms. It was not egg white; it was the viscous state of his skin now that the water had boiled out of it. Jarvis flung it off himself, and then he saw that where the egg white had been he could now see roasting muscle. His skin was dripping off his body in sheets."