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This week’s story is from Greetings from Below by David Philip Mullins, published by Sarabande Books. What would have become of Nick Adams if he’d been born along the ragged edges of a new American city, one with more churches per capita than any other, and twice the suicide rate? Meet Nick Danze, the main character of David Philip Mullins’s vital debut collection, Greetings from Below. The opening story finds fourteen-year-old Nick and his pal Kilburg sitting in the Las Vegas desert, drinking whiskey from Kilburg’s fake leg. It’s the first of many shocks in Nick’s sexual education, which begins with a kiss from Kilburg he calls “practice.” In later stories, Nick hires a call girl, visits a swingers’ club on Christmas Eve, obsesses over obese middle-aged women, and meets the love of his life, Annie, only he’s not sure he loves her and he’s compulsively unfaithful. Ashamed of his behavior, he stubbornly repeats it. And lurking behind it all is Vegas, with its gilded casinos, neon-tinted suburbs, and dingy, outer-ring strip clubs. In Nick’s wounded honesty and queasy self-consciousness, Mullins awakens us to the perverse power of alienation and shame.