Praise for Lonesome Animals
"From the opening sentence of Holbert's remarkable debut, it is obvious that we are in the hands of a master storyteller . . . Holbert's prose is simultaneously roughly hewn and elegant, and recalls Cormac McCarthy at his best, as do his insights into the relationship between predator and prey. Call it literary fiction, classic western realism, or historical noir, Holbert is a writer of formidable skill and this auspicious debut should have considerable crossover appeal." Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Holbert’s unsettling book demands a strong stomach
At the end the reader will feel relief or satisfaction or some combination, and tip a sweat-stained hat to Holbert for raising the stakes of the Western genre
Holbert’s sympathies seem to align with the quality of his prose: the land is rendered in loving, even exquisite detail, so too the crimes
Holbert has gone all-in: This book is audacious.” Kirkus
"A gripping murder story and incandescent moral fable, set in hardscrabble Eastern Washington during the Great Depression. Retired lawman Russell Strawl is literally back in the saddle, hired to roam the land and find the brutal killer of local Indians. What he learns is shocking but, in retrospect, inevitable. Added punch: Spokane resident Holbert loosely based Strawl on his great-grandfather Indian scout, early settler and all-around tough old bastard." Seattle Times, Best Mysteries of 2012
"Lonesome Animals is an impure marvel. Ths cowboy noir is loaded with lyrical detail, black humor, and a kind of antic despair. At its center is the compromised lawman Russell Strawl, a pilgrim making slow progress through the blasted ruins of Western myth. He turns violence into a kind of brutal music and provides the weary, stubborn heart of this astonishing debut."
Max Phillips, Shamus-winning author of Fade to Blonde
"Lonesome Animals is dark, beautiful, compelling, strange, vivid; part Western, part detective story, altogether brilliant. With the authority of myth, it is a book obsessed with justice and history, and its two main charactersthe retired lawman Russell Strawl and his prophet son Elijahare as harrowing and moving a marriage as I have read in years. It’s an incredible book by an incredible author. It will break your heart and leave you gasping."Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant's House
"Lonesome Animals is exhilarating. The dialogue will blow your hair back, the description of land is prose poetry, and the violence is shocking for its intensity and sudden occurrence. This is a study of morality in a world that has lost its morals, a work that transcends its epic story of good versus evil. No character is spared and neither is the reader. Bruce Holbert’s fierce novel will enter the canon as a classic." Chris Offutt, author of Kentucky Straight
"A lyrical, almost poetic novel. Holbert vividly captures the essence of his characters and of the place that spawned them in Lonesome Animals." Mystery Maven Blog
A bloody Western set during the 1930s, Holbert's debut novel follows an amoral lawman hunting an amoral killer in the rugged, rapidly changing rural counties of Washington State. Holbert's unsettling book demands a strong stomach: The violence is graphic, and sublime prose is cheek-by-jowl with ridiculous conceits. Whether the violence is gratuitous is a question the book begs but avoids answering, but one's pleasure may turn with one's stomach. At the end the reader will feel relief or satisfaction or some combination, and tip a sweat-stained hat to Holbert for raising the stakes of the Western genre. The protagonist Russell Strawl's name says it all, rhyming with drawl and squall, but the participle of another rhyme is the best word to describe him: appalling. Pure antagonism, Strawl travels light as a contagious disease and falls like a curse. He has superhuman hearing, which seems a prerequisite for his in- or sub-human behavior. We are expected to believe in types: in Keystonish cops, fops, sots and a young man who answers only to the name of a prophet. The plot is as tortured as the killer's victims. Holbert's sympathies seem to align with the quality of his prose: The land is rendered in loving, even exquisite detail, so too the crimes. The characters' minds are infernal, and at its best the prose makes the darkness visible. Holbert has gone all-in: This book is audacious. It reaches the heights and then keeps rising so far over the top one doesn't know how to take it.