This is a wonderful book: funny, evocative, with absorbing quotidian details and wry asides on the nature of existence. It is not a book full of answers, rather it asks and ponders the most fundamental of questions: What the hell are we doing? Poe Ballantine is not presently well known in Australia, but with Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere, I have nodoubt that will change.
Robbie Egan, Readings Monthly September 2013
And it’s the rendering of this confusion more than of the shocking details that makes “Love and Terror” such a compelling read. Comparisons to “In Cold Blood” are appropriate, but the differences between the books are significant. Whereas Capote’s primary concerns are psychic (his concentration on what separates Perry Smith from himself), Ballantine’s concerns involve truth (what even happened to the math professor?) and living amid uncertainty (how do we nevertheless find meaning?).
A partial answer to this last question is given by Ballantine’s narrator, who demonstrates the truth that humor and humility are the tools of sanity. The crafting of this persona is superb, and there are any number of further superlatives I could assign to the prose, but the plain fact is that not every writer makes you stop to reread for the sheer pleasure of doing so; Ballantine makes this happen regularly. I join Cheryl Strayed, who contributes the book’s introduction, in hoping that the secret of Poe Ballantine stays secret no longer.
Scott F. Parker, Star Tribune , 24 August 2013
I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that Ballantine up-ends the true crime formula in a way that’s both deeply satisfying and deceptively obvious. Love and Terror even manages to hit all the marks Ballantine’s publisher originally laid out for him: it’s a memoir, a true crime thriller, a book about autism, and a catalog of the Chadron Record’s quirky police log. (It’s maybe one-appendix short of a cookbook, but who knows, I’ve got the galley.) Most of all, it’s that rarest of things: a book that lives up to its blurbs. And if you are like me, you will finish it thinking, For the love of God, will the Chadron State College English Department please give this man a job?
Alina Simone, Trop September 2013