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avatar for Bruce Holbert

Bruce Holbert

Mt. Spokane High School
Nine Mile Falls, Washington
Bruce Holbert is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, where he assisted in editing the Iowa Review and held a teaching writing fellowship.  His fiction has appeared in the Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, other voices, the Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review, the Spokesman Review, the West Wind Review, Cairn, Riverlit and has one annual awards from the Tampa Tribune quarterly and the Inlander.  His non-fiction has appeared in the New Orleans Review, the Spokesman Review and the Daily Iowan, and his poetry in Riverlit.  He recently co-authored, with his wife, Signed, Your Student (Kaplan Press) a collection of remembrances of influential teachers recounted by prominent Americans.  His first novel Lonesome Animals will be released May of 2012 by Counterpoint Press.

Holbert grew up in the country described in Lonesome Animals a combination of rocky scabland farms and desert brush at the foot of the Okanogan Mountains.  What once was the Columbia River, harnessed now by a series of reservoirs and dams, dominates the topography.  Holbert’s great-grandfather, Arthur Strahl, was an Indian scout and among the first settlers of the Grand Coulee.  The man was a bit of a legend until he murdered Holbert’s grandfather (Strahl’s son-in-law) and made Holbert’s grandmother a widow and Holbert’s father fatherless.  A fictionalized Strahl is the subject of Lonesome Animals.

Holbert’s paternal grandmother ran a one-room schoolhouse and the family ranch until she retired in the mid-sixties and his maternal grandparents were among the immigrants who traveled west for the promise of new deal work on the Grand Coulee Dam, where Holbert’s father worked, as well, operating a crane, for twenty years before his retirement.

Holbert’s father worked construction jobs throughout Holbert’s youth – Holbert lived in 23 different towns before reaching the age of six.  Grand Coulee though remained home.  Holbert grew up in the shadow of the dam and in the shadow of the west’s mythology, which loomed even larger.  His youth was spent as an oddity (he read books), though he committed enough minor crimes to eventually fit in.  He graduated high school despite such habits and entered Eastern Washington University, where his greatest accomplishment as an undergrad was forging the signatures of three deans to garner placement in a graduate writer’s workshop, taught by Kay Boyle.  By the time he was found out, he was one of Ms. Boyle’s favorites and she insisted he stay.  Holbert eventually graduated from Eastern Washington University with a BA in English and Education.

He currently teaches “school resistant” students at Mt Spokane High School in Mead, Washington.  Holbert has been married to his wife, Holly, for twenty-six years and has three children Natalie 20, Luke 18 and Jackson 17."

Lonesome Animals

In Lonesome Animals, Russell Strawl, a tormented former lawman, is called out of retirement to hunt a serial killer with a sense of the macabre who has been leaving elaborately carved bodies of Native Americans across three counties. As the pursuit ensues, Strawl’s own dark and violent history weaves itself into the hunt, shedding light on the remains of his broken family: one wife taken by the river, one by his own hand; an adopted Native American son who fancies himself a Catholic prophet; and a daughter, whose temerity and stoicism contrast against the romantic notions of how the west was won. 

In the vein of True Grit and Blood Meridian, Lonesome Animals is a western novel reinvented, a detective story inverted for the west. It contemplates the nature of story and heroism in the face of a collapsing ethos not only of Native American culture, but also of the first wave of white men who, through the battle against the geography and its indigenous people, guaranteed their own destruction. But it is also about one man’s urgent, elegiac search for justice amidst the craven acts committed on the edges of civilization.