Saturday, November 8, 2014

Kim Zupan, The Ploughmen

One reader has compared this novel to No Country For Old Men because of a murderous central character, John Cload, who brings to mind yet another dark work of fiction The Silence of the Lambs. Cload is more than a little like Hannibal Lecter, as he befriends a deputy sheriff who keeps him company from outside his jail cell through long, sleepless nights and escorts him to and from the county courthouse where he is under trial.

The deputy, Valentine Millimaki, has been encouraged by the sheriff to learn what he can about Cload that might help in the trial. But besides a single killing, for which there was a witness, the deputy remains unaware that Cload has bodies buried all over the rough Montana country along the northern shores of the upper Missouri River.

Not more than marginally interested in Cload anyway, Millimaki has troubles of his own. Cload correctly senses that they are woman troubles. As a schoolboy, Millimaki once discovered the body of his mother, who had hanged herself in a barn on the family farm. Now, his young wife has left him, weary and depressed by life in a backwater Montana town.
 
Missouri River, below Great Falls, Montana
Missoula writer Kim Zupan has a wonderful gift for lucid and sharply polished prose. As much of the novel takes place at night or in the waning days of autumn, there is an awareness of light and shadow through many of the scenes. You know as Millimaki walks the corridors of the jail or sits outside Cload’s cell exactly how the fluorescent lighting affects what can be seen.

His characters are strongly drawn and come alive in realistic dialogue. Most absorbing for the reader is the strange and fragile bond that develops between the two men. One has the calm clarity of a man who knows he is about to be convicted of murder. The other surrenders to a pervasive gloom as he is overtaken by loneliness, and his life slowly derails. Each needs the other, but for very different reasons, which do not become evident until the final chapters.

The Ploughmen is currently available in paper and ebook formats at amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Image credits: Ron Scheer

Coming up: TBD


11 comments:

  1. Sounds like a "downer" to me, but the writing may make it worthwhile.

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  2. I had written a short story with that title. Damn!

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    1. The title comes from the fact that both central characters grew up on farms. One of them imagines himself plowing a field to lull himself to sleep when he is troubled by insomnia.

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  3. Megan's agent/bf handed this book and recommended it highly to me. But not a library in Michigan seems to have it. I may have to buy it.

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    1. I bought it after I learned of it from Jenny Shank on twitter. Many years ago, I read an essay by Zupan about riding in a ranch rodeo, and have been waiting for something from him ever since.

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  4. I probably would have skipped right by this book without your comments about Lambs and No country. Now I'm curious.

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    1. With your interest in horror, I think you would like it.

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  5. Ron, although this is not exactly my kind of book, I'm tempted to read it out of curiosity not to mention the "lucid and sharply polished prose."

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    1. Though the subject matter is a little dark, his style gives it a kind of elegance.

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  6. Went to the book release for this here in Missoula and enjoyed it. Kim is a good guy. I haven't read the book yet, but it is near the top of the pile.

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    1. I understand that he teaches carpentry.

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