This week's Friday Freebie is a new release I'm very much looking forward to reading. Rick Bass has long been a favorite of mine. Not only is he one of our best living short story writers, he lives in Montana (Montanans automatically get 15 bonus points before I even start reading their books). I first fell in love with his work back in college when I was assigned Oil Notes and The Deer Pasture. The writing in those two non-fiction books was so clear and beautiful and lay on the page with such an easy grace, that I quickly moved on to his fiction: The Watch, The Hermit's Story, The Lives of Rocks, and nearly everything else. In a review of The Hermit's Story, I once wrote:
The best ones in the collection -- "The Hermit's Story," "Swans" and "Two Deer" -- are mini-masterpieces of sight, sound and smell. In most of the stories, man and creation converge in metaphor, delivered with the lightest of touches. Something as simple as a bird disoriented after being roused from a winter hibernation is transformed into a symbol for the grace-seeking human race. Bass knows we live in a crucial, complicated time, poised between completely encasing the earth in concrete and steel and actively fighting to protect the last verdant acres.Conservation and preservation of our vanishing Western spaces dominate the pages of every Bass book. As I wrote, "Rick Bass' shirts smell like woodsmoke."
So, imagine my surprise when I received an advance copy of his latest novel and found that it was about the rise and fall of a family of country-western singers in the Elvis Presley era. Nashville Chrome has a great, candy-colored cover and earned a glowing review from Publishers Weekly: "the narrative has a pitch-perfect chorus of longing and regret, with an undertone that connects and heals."
And yet...and yet...I thought, "Where were the bugling elk, the wind-soughing pines, the crystalline trout streams?" This, apparently, was not my granddaddy's Rick Bass. Despite my shock and awe, I still think Nashville Chrome will turn out to be a winner. I have faith in Rick Bass' pen.
If you'd like to be singing the praises (hopefully) of Nashville Chrome, then I suggest you enter this week's book giveaway without delay by answering this question:
What is the colorful last name of the singing family at the heart of the novel?
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. In order to give everyone a fair shake in the contest, please e-mail the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section. The contest closes at midnight on Sept. 9, at which time I will place all the correct respondents in a hat and draw the winning name. I'll announce the winner on Sept 10.