Local author releases successful first novel

Moth Crazy

By James Michael Potter


212 pages

In James Michael Potter’s debut novel, the author brings together stories about three spiritually struggling people by using some unconventional storytelling. Fortunately, it works.

In Moth Crazy, Potter, a Durango archaeologist, jumps back and forth between the first-person narratives of his three characters. Breaking up the relatively short chapters into snippets, and then breaking up the chapters into sections, Potter provides an enjoyable story that gives readers enough diversity in its flow to encourage them to stick with it to the end – just to see how the lives of these characters end up having a permanent connection.

This book tells the story of three people: Lukin (aka Luke), Sharon and Gaia. Each one is, on some level, struggling with a personal issue in his or her life that is important enough for each to figure out, but not overtake their daily living. Luke is a 20-ish archaeologist whose father is hounding him about his future. His father can’t stand Luke’s affliction of slacker ennui. To escape, Luke jogs. But instead of being attentive while he exercises, he battles the feelings of his broken heart, his thoughts trailing off into jazz rhythms or songs. The consequence becomes dangerous. One night while jogging, Luke is hit by a car.

It was a painful experience, but one that encourages him to move on to Arizona, where he attends school and becomes a student of past civilizations. But he never fully sheds his demons. He becomes addicted to painkillers and is so lovelorn that he sabotages any chance of a new relationship. Along the way, he becomes friends with colorful personalities.

Sharon supplies Luke with the drugs. She’s a professional escort but loves women. She’s the type of person who adapts to any situation – as long as she has her cigarettes and the attention of others.

Gaia, whose New Age-type name doesn’t quite meet Potter’s personality of her, meets Sharon and Luke in a Flagstaff bar. Gaia is on her own spiritual journey that she hopes will mimic Jack Kerouac’s so she can write about it.

The trio makes for an unlikely group that survives just enough of their own torment that they are able to travel with peace and unity to New Mexico, where Luke is working on an archaeological dig.

From there, the story finally takes some twists and turns. Too bad Potter didn’t expand this storyline to create more of a thriller – and earlier in the book – so that readers could delve into the characters even more. But the surprise plot change is still engaging enough as Potter switches between the narratives.

Potter’s expertise as an archaeologist comes through in his writing. He clearly knows the Southwest well enough to provide a believable lead character. He also writes knowledgably about American Indian culture. Moth crazy, readers learn, is what Navajos call something that is “intense but directionless.” That aptly describes Luke, Sharon and Gaia.

For Potter’s first novel, Moth Crazy is a success.







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