The Hour of Lead

The Hour of Lead is the story of growing up in the rugged highlands along the Columbia River in the first half of the 20th century. Raised in the area, Bruce Holbert (Lonesome Animals) knows the rough terrain well. His new novel is like Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove without the twinkle in Gus McCrae's eye or the wide-open plains. Instead, it follows Matt Lawson who, at age 12, loses both his twin brother and his father in a brutal snowstorm that buries the family ranch. When his only friend, his studious classmate Wendy, spurns his awkward romantic advances, he takes off on his own, making his way to Idaho by laboring on whatever ranch needs a hardworking hand. "Like a good skillet, dull and duty-bound," Matt becomes almost a second son to the patriarch of a large ranch whose own son is a disappointment. After a dozen years of hard work, violence, arson and bad weather, Matt returns home to marry Wendy and begin a family--only to have the sins of his youthful past follow him there.

Nothing comes easy in Holbert's version of the Old West. The women are caretakers and breeders who are tough enough to hack off their own afterbirth umbilicus and run a ranch alone. The men hunt, fight, drink--and kill when killing is called for. The primeval world of The Hour of Lead is one where "blood is thicker than water, but dirt trumps both." With rich historical detail and a driving narrative rhythm, Holbert has built a brooding novel of hard work, good luck and redemption. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kansas.

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