Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Freebie: An Unbridled Giveaway

Congratulations to A. W. McKinnon, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: The Hunter and Other Stories by Dashiell Hammett.

This week's book giveaway is one of the most unique and personally gratifying Friday Freebies I've ever posted in The Quivering Pen's three-year history.  A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Greg Michalson, co-publisher (along with Fred Ramey) of Unbridled Books.  Greg said he was going through some old boxes of Unbridled books and came across some titles which he thought deserved more recognition.  Would I be interested in offering them up as Friday Freebie giveaways?

Would I?  I think I said "Yes" so fast, the "s" got there before the "y."  I've been a fan of Unbridled Books since its inception in 2003.  In fact, I was even a devotee of its precursor, BlueHen Books, the short-lived Putnam imprint which Ramey and Michalson also co-founded.  If I went out to my front porch and discovered a package with the Unbridled logo--the flying mane and galloping forelegs of a horse--then I knew there was an unqualified literary treat waiting for me inside.  I've never been disappointed by an Unbridled Books book.  That's not something I can say of every publisher.

When Greg's box of books arrived, it was like Christmas in September at my house.  Actually, I was celebrating your Christmas since these titles will be going out to a few lucky Quivering Pen readers.  It's my unbridled delight to pass these works of fiction on to other readers.  I asked Greg to talk a little bit about the books he sent:

One unexpected pleasure of recently going back through some boxes of books after I moved my office over the summer was the chance to revisit memories from some wonderful novels that have meant a great deal to me.  As I was doing this, it occurred to me, yet again, that over the years Fred Ramey and I have published a number of Western titles that deserve some further attention unless and before they’re forgotten.  I continue to think of them as some of the best books I ever published.  At least a few of them are or should be considered classics.  I wrote a couple of short blog posts a while back about the nature of Western fiction that also got me thinking about this group.

I’ve often said in describing what we do that Unbridled Books is a regional publisher, just not from any one region.  There are so many different ways that this statement is true, even though we’re a small press with a national footprint and aspirations to being a part of the national conversation—if there is such a thing anymore.  Our authors and their books certainly have universal appeal and deserve national recognition.

But one simple way this is true is with the books that grow from a particular landscape or culture and that help us understand our heritage and define who we’ve become today.  And in fact, the literature of the West of course has embodied the American spirit, identity and dream.

In the best fiction, cultural identity is often inseparably tied up in sense of place.  We’re shaped by where we come from and where we’re going as much as by what we want, and why, and what we’re willing to give up to get it.  That cultural identity is one of the main differences between, say, Garcia Marquez’s brand of real maravillosa and the decadence or decay of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County.  And why the fresh promise of the New World and the rootlessness of Westward expansion gave rise to the oh so American penchant for continually reinventing oneself.

With all this in mind, I’ve invited David Abrams to give away copies from my personal stash of some of my favorite books and authors, hoping to bring them at least in some small way together with another appreciative audience of readers who might have missed them before.  Many are from Unbridled Books, but some go back to earlier times with BlueHen and MacMurray & Beck.

These novels are filled with the stories and people of the Western United States.  Each of them seems to take the reader on a ride to places he or she might never expect, connecting with characters who have helped define some part of what it means to be who we are as a culture today.  They’ll touch both your heart and your mind, offering the pleasure and intimate enrichment of the very best reading experiences.  Or at least, this is the effect they’ve had on me.

Here, then, is the list:

Rick Collignon’s classic The Journal of Antonio Montoya, the novel which begins his amazing Guadalupe saga, set in Guadalupe, New Mexico.  If you haven’t read the Guadalupe saga, you’re simply missing a group of novels that make up an important piece of America’s western literature, one that’s comic and tragic at once, delightful, surprising and revelatory.  The characters you’ll come to know through these novels will live with you for a long time to come.

Lloyd Zimpel’s A Season of Fire and Ice, from the heartlands of the harsh 1880s Dakota Territories, a morality tale of survival and destiny told in the convincing language of a patriarch’s journal.  This is a moving personal journey filled with humor and tenacity, family loyalty, defiance and despair, an almost biblical story of self-revelation with an over-arching spiritual reach.  It offers a portrait of who we have always been in America and what we’ve learned to value as a people.

Debra Earling’s Perma Red, set in the 1940s on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, in which a reckless and stubborn young girl sets her life down a desperate but unforgettable path.  This is a breathtaking, love-crossed saga of the West, about a young woman coming of age under perilous circumstances, against a classic, frightening clash of cultures.  I’ve never read anything quite like it.

If you haven’t read these, you must. And you’re in for a treat.  Right alongside them are:

M. Allen Cunningham’s The Green Age of Asher Witherow, which was a #1 Booksense pick back in the day, set in the coal mines north of San Francisco in the 1860s-70s.  It’s a rich, gothic tale of a young soul coming of age during the explosive boom and bust years of a little remembered immigrant coal mining town in 19th-century California.

Cathryn Alpert’s Rocket City, a classic road novel with one of the first great dwarf characters, with one of the all-time greatest opening lines ever.

And perhaps surprisingly (surprising only because she’s from Ohio), Nancy Zafris’ Lucky Strike, a novel full of heart that follows a young widow and her two children into the canyon country of Utah in 1954 where thousands of self-styled prospectors, encouraged or deluded by government pamphlets, have caught uranium fever and descended upon the desert landscape, determined to reinvent themselves.

Also William Cobb’s The Bird Saviors, set in Western Colorado in some very near future, it captures a haunting vision of the new West in which a young and remarkable unwed mother must find her way during a time of climate change, economic turmoil, virus fears, fundamentalist cults and illegal immigrant hardship.  Cobb’s is a story of defiance and anger mixed with compassion and unexpected love, of resilience and personal survival, and surprising hope.

John Addiego’s Tears of the Mountain chronicles a single day in one man’s life—July 4, 1876—along with a series of flashbacks that all lead up to an eventful Centennial Independence Day celebration in Sonoma, California.

David Allan Cates’ dark (sometimes darkly comic) and almost hallucinatory period masterpiece of re-invention and horrific manifest destiny, Freeman Walker.

Definitely Mattox Roesch’s Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-Same, if you count Alaska’s Eskimo community as the West, with a transplanted teenage gangbanger from LA.  This one was named by Library Journal as the best adult novel of its year for young adult readers.  Basically, a book for everyone of all ages.

And the stunningly lyrical epic tale by Michael Pritchett, The Melancholy Fate of Capt. Lewis, which delivers as intimately imagined a version of the grand adventure that was the Lewis & Clark expedition as you’ll ever read.

*     *     *

Here's how the giveaway will work: I have one copy of each of the books to give away to contestants.  I'll draw four names out of the hat.  One person will win four of the books, one person will win three books, and two people will win two books.  If you have a preference for which of the Unbridled titles you'd like to win, mention that in your email; I can't guarantee those will actually be the books I select for you, but I'll do my best to match demand with supply.  Otherwise, I'll just randomly select your prize-package books.  Trust me when I say there is not a bad apple in this bunch.

If you'd like a chance at winning the Unbridled Books prize package, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on Oct. 31, at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Nov. 1.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

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