If you’re looking for a tale of personal purgatory but ultimate redemption, The Dead and the Desperate is the book for you. There have been many literary takes on blue collar life in America—dead-end jobs, dead-end relationships, and often mixed with substance abuse or variations of mental illness. But as a deft and brutally honest storyteller, Dan Denton manages to make such well-trodden paths not only compelling and personal, but literally a page-turner. You can’t wait to see what crazy shit will come down next.
And there is an overarching theme in the book of the soul-crushing toll that factory/blue collar life takes upon those trapped in grinding work hours and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Yet amidst challenges and experiences that might have ended a lesser person, Denton manages a wry sense of dark comedy, mixed with an almost educational take on an American middle class that has been ground down by our current corporatocracy.
Assorted short chapters of the book focus specifically on truly illuminating topics like the economics/psychology of sex work, the history of the factory as an institution, economic disparity, the rise of inner-city crack and associated incarcerations, mood disorders/SSRI’s/Big Pharma, the disintegration of “the American Dream,” and the ensuant social fallout of globalization.
But it is the all-too-human ordeals that drive the story—a descent into the depths, the road back, and then a “return with the elixir” (in the form of this book). Denton has come away with a hell of a life-tale, is now many-years clean and sober, and living the life of a full-time writer.
Not everyone has a compelling story to tell. And not everyone with a compelling story quite knows how to tell it. Neither of those things are the case with Dan Denton.
Read it and see!
—Steven Meloan, author of St. James Infirmary