The Reviews are coming in.
Thomas Cobb. Morrow, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-239124-7
Gritty and tense, Cobb's (Crazy Heart) new novel exposes small-town hypocrisy, petty rivalries, jealousy, and media-fueled hysteria as a young rookie police officer is unfairly blamed for a hit-and-run fatality. When patrolman Ronald Forbert tries to arrest Matt Laferiere for drunk driving, the confrontation turns violent and deadly, and Ronald must defend his actions in a town where everyone knows there was bad blood between him and Matt. Police Chief Gordy Hawkins and his officers back up Ronald's story, and so do three witnesses, but as public pressure to blame someone mounts, one coerced witness changes his version, with disastrous results. Lydell is a (fictional) rural farm and mill town in an unspecified state, dying a slow economic death, and the poisonous gossip feeds the local TV and print media, eventually becoming so frenzied that it interferes with the investigation and search for the hit-and-run driver. Nobody wins in this tale but that never detracts from its undeniable power. (Sept.)
P U B LI S H E R S W E E K LY • J U LY 2 7 , 2 0 1 5
Western Writers of America Spur Award Winner, Best Long Novel
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and did not leave until I was an adult. I spent much of my childhood in the desert. Palo verde, and mesquite were the trees I knew best. Wet creosote was the first smell I found intoxicating. Among my playmates were the horned toad and the tarantula. And I knew the myths of frontier Arizona, and those myths and heroes became mine—Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Doc Holliday, Cochise, chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, and his friend Tom Jeffords, and Geronimo. And I knew that terrible things had happened nearby—a group of leading Tucson citizens and a recruited band of Papago Indians had slaughtered one hundred and fifty Apaches, mostly women and children, at Camp Grant.
By the time I was a teenager, I still loved and lived in the desert, but no longer wanted to stay there. I wanted to live in New York, or Los Angeles, or Chicago or London, where I supposed interesting and important things happened, but not Tucson. Years later, when I lived in Houston, I began to understand how important the desert was to me and how much I missed it. I began to read about it, and when I went back, I looked at the desert in a way transformed . It had become the landscape of my imagination. I live in New England, but I write in Arizona.
Shavetail began on one of those trips back to Arizona. My childhood friend and I stumbled onto the ruins of Camp Supply, later Camp Rucker, in the southeastern part of Arizona, and I was entranced. The story of the place, the story of Lts. Rucker and Henely became the loosest of models for the main characters of the novel. The characters are fictional, and except for the Camp Grant Massacre which preceeds the action, so is the plot. What is true here is the setting-- the desert, foothills and mountains of southern Arizona and Mexico—and the sorts of lives that the place engenders.
The desert, especially the Sonoran desert, is often called things like “harsh and unforgiving,” and I suppose it is. But it’s also delicate and exquisitely beautiful. Each year, there’s less of it. Part of what I write of the desert is elegiac. Much of it is gone, more of it is going every day. Partly I don’t live in Arizona because I don’t want to intrude any further on that fragile place. Though there is an adventure story at the center of Shavetail, I see it primarily as a novel of linked love stories—stories of loves desired, lost and held on to at great cost. One of those stories is of me and the desert where I grew up.