top of page


Winner of the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction.

Mad Boy is a finely honed literary achievement, beautifully written and as clever as it is memorable... Mad Boy is a great success, a mini-epic in just 238 pages.”

Denver Post


“Henry is an engaging, resourceful hero of this picaresque tale... [Mad Boy] is a wartime coming-of-age story filled with nonstop action and genuine pathos.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A quest that spins into an action-packed adventure, spiced with black comedy, as Henry is joined by a motley supporting cast of turncoats, drifters and thieves. Arvin's wartime coming-of-age story is so alive with incident, memorable characters and vivid historical detail, it feels like condensed epic.”

Sydney Morning Herald


Named one of the Ten Best Books by Colorado Authors, by Westword.

“This is a mad-cap novel that comes like a breathe of fresh air to the sticky summer heat. Bold and inventive, Mad Boy is packed with action, adventure, drama and genuine belly laughs... The triumph of the novel is Henry, he is a wonderful character, a resourceful boy, a determined and intelligent little fellow, courageous and likeable. It’s a pleasure to share his journey and meet the supporting cast of misfits, soldiers, prostitutes, conmen and family.”


“These are strange and dangerous times in the US, so I suppose it is not surprising that they call forth strange and dangerous books. The Greeks say the fish rots from the head (certainly true of American politics) but in Mad Boy, Arvin explores America’s clay feet... Mad Boy is a terrific read. While it passes the authenticity test of the historical fiction genre, it is not really about the war of 1812. Rather, it is about the many devils who disturb the sleep of the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave, who have delivered our American cousins into the hands of scoundrels, wrapped in flags. Highly recommended.”

Good Reading Magazine (Australia)

“[Mad Boy] leaves you gasping for breath at the excitement taking place within a beautiful understanding of a chaotic, mostly forgotten war... A brilliant, unique writing voice.”

The Press (UK)

“For most readers, the War of 1812 likely does not conjure excitement. Pity, as Nick Arvin’s new novel Mad Boy runs the course of some of this history in the form of a rollicking and rambunctious story well worth reading.”

Petoskey News

“Not only does [Mad Boy] offer an insider’s view of the oft-neglected War of 1812, it also offers a smart, highly enjoyable, fast-paced, wholly original book reading experience. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

Addison County Independent

“The war of 1812 as seen through the eyes of an intrepid 10-year-old. Henry Phipps (with a touch of Huck Finn) navigates with wit.”

San Francisco Chronicle

Mad Boy is set during America’s “Forgotten War,” but it’s really about the same things that all of his books are deliciously about: the human condition, and the things we’ll do to survive.”


“Set during the War of 1812, Mad Boy follows 10-year-old Henry Phipps, who is reeling from the loss of his mother. He remains obsessed with her final request, a burial at sea surrounded by family. But gathering the Phipps squad might not be so simple: Henry’s father is in prison, and Henry’s brother, Franklin, is under threat of a firing squad. Henry sets out on a mission to free his father and reconnect with his brother, all the while encountering soldiers, slaves... This character-stuffed romp is sure to transfix history buffs and novices alike.”

5280 Magazine

“About this very early point in the book, it is to be wondered at the machinations of the author's mind, but by then and as the pages turn, it is almost impossible not to keep turning the next page to find out what happens next.”

Blue Wolf Review

Listen to an interview with Nick Arvin about Mad Boy on Colorado Public Radio.

“A rollicking page-turner.”

Publishers Weekly

“The richness of Arvin’s historical imagination makes the world of 1812 intimately present. A joyously earthy tale about a fascinating period of American history, Mad Boy combines the luxurious period detail of Wolf Hall with the deadpan comedy of True Grit.”

—Sandra Newman, author of The Country of Ice Cream Star


“Arvin masters his epic story of devastation, conflict, love, and family loyalty, all without a splinter of sentimentality. Mad Boy is a feat of magic.”

—Erika Krouse, author of Contenders and Come Up and See Me Sometime


“This brilliant musket blast of a novel is alive with humor, heat and heart. Mad Boy is a tremendous accomplishment.”

—Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome

“With its cast of deserters and turncoats, clowns and scoundrels, Mad Boy is a bloody, rollicking picaresque. Again and again, young Henry Phipps pursues his quest with the purest intentions, only to be waylaid by low company and his own taste for adventure.”

—Stewart O’Nan, author of A Prayer for the Dying


Mad Boy is a terrific achievement. There’s a vicious black humor at work here, underpinning the larger bend of the story in a way that keeps you guessing. As each new character arrives fully formed, like they’ve stepped out of the archive, you wonder how Arvin will keep it all together. The best part is, he does.”

—Rohan Wilson, author of To Name Those Lost

“Like Mark Twain, but with tattoos.”

—Eric Boss, Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association


Mad Boy's hero is an unforgettable creation, and his adventures move at the most satisfyingly calibrated speeds. You'll want to race through the book to see what Henry does or whom he encounters next, but you'll also want to slow down to savor the storytelling magic.”

—John "Franny" Francisconi, Bank Square Books

“Surreal at times and brutally realistic at others, this novel is a strange amalgam of As I Lay DyingThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Red Badge of Courage.”

—John Gibbs, Green Apple Books


“It is a testament to a tale well told of a time barely thought about in America history that this time and these folks and our young hero all coalesce into a unique, endearing and truly marvelous story.”

—Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield’s Books


Mad Boy’s hero is an unforgettable creation, and his adventures move at the most satisfyingly calibrated speeds. You’ll want to race through the book to see what Henry does or whom or what he encounters next, but you’ll also want to slow down to savor the storytelling magic.”

—John Francisconi, Bank Square Books


“Humane and brutal but never false, Nick Arvin delivers an illuminating critique of American history and myth.”

—Mario Acevedo, bestselling author of The Nymphos of Rocky Flats

“The pace of the story is unrelenting... Read it to become absorbed in a fascinating and sometimes comical adventure.”

The Historical Novels Review

bottom of page