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For more than four decades, Thomas McGuane has been heralded as an unrivaled master of the short story. Now the arc of that achievement appears in one definitive volume—forty-five stories, including two new and six previously uncollected pieces. Set in the seedy corners of Key West, the remote shore towns of the Bahamas, and McGuane’s hallmark Big Sky country with its vast and unforgiving landscape, these are stories of people on the fringes of society, whose twisted pasts meddle with their chances for companionship. Moving from the hilarious to the tragic and back again, McGuane writes about familial dysfunction, emotional failure, and American loneliness, celebrating the human ability to persist through life’s absurdities.
The quarry--from trout and salmon to striped bass, massive tarpon, and chimerical permit--inhabit these thirty-three essays as surely as the characters of a novel, luring the author back to childhood haunts in Michigan and Rhode Island, and on through the stages of his life in San Francisco, Key West, and Montana; from the river in his backyard to the holiest waters of the American fishery, and to such far-flung locales as Ireland, Argentina, New Zealand, and Russia. As he travels with friends, with his son, alone, or in the literary company of Roderick Haig-Brown or Isaak Walton, the fish take him to such subjects as "unfounded opinions" on rods and reels, the classification of anglers according to the flies they prefer, family, and memory--right down to why fisherman lie. "His essay subjects are the stuff of epics," Geoffrey Wolff has written, "and his narratives can make you laugh out loud."
Infused with a deep experience of wildlife and the outdoors, dedicated to conservation, reverent and hilarious by turns or at once, The Longest Silence sets the heart pounding for a glimpse of moving water, and demonstrates what a life dedicated to sport reveals about life.
Tiring of the company of junkies and burn-outs, Thomas Skelton goes home to Key West to take up a more wholesome life. But things fester in America's utter South. And Skelton's plans to become a skiff guide in the shining blue subtropical waters place him on a collision course with Nichol Dance, who has risen to the crest of the profession by dint of infallible instincts and a reputation for homicide. Out of their deadly rivalry, Thomas McGuane has constructed a novel with the impetus of a thriller and the heartbroken humor that is his distinct contribution to American prose.
"Full of surprises and rewards and an exhilaration one feels only rarely." Newsweek on Ninety-Two in the Shade.
A Parade Magazine “Books We Love” Pick
The Big Sky State may seem to lack the shadowy urban mazes traditional to the noir genre. But in Montana, darkness is found in the regions of the heart, driving the desperate and deadly to commit the most heinous of crimes. Here, James Grady and Keir Graff, both Montana natives, masterfully curate this collection of hard-edged Western tales.
Montana Noir includes Eric Heidle’s “Ace in the Hole,” an Edgar Award nominee for Best Short Story, and impressive contributions by David Abrams, Caroline Patterson, Thomas McGuane, Janet Skeslien Charles, Sidner Larson, Yvonne Seng, James Grady, Jamie Ford, Carrie La Seur, Walter Kirn, Gwen Florio, Debra Magpie Earling, and Keir Graff.
“Terrific . . . Montana Noir is one of the high points in Akashic’s long-running and justly celebrated Noir series . . . varying landscapes reflect the darkness within the people who walk the streets or drive the country roads.” —Booklist
“Montana may not have the back alleys so common to noir but it has western justice which can be quick, brutal and final and that is as satisfying as anything found in the urban streets that typically attract the dark beauty of the noir genre.” —New York Journal of Books
“Certain noir standbys prove both malleable and fertile in these 14 new stories . . . If Montana has a dark side, is anywhere safe from noir?” —Kirkus Reviews
As a citizen, Nicholas Payne is not in the least solid. As a boyfriend, he is nothing short of disastrous, and his latest flame, the patrician Ann Fitzgerald, has done a wise thing by dropping him. But Ann isn't counting on Nicholas's wild persistence, or on the slapstick lyricism of Thomas McGuane, who in The Bushwhacked Piano sends his hero from Michigan to Montana on a demented mission of courtship whose highlights include a ride on a homicidal bronco and apprenticeship to the inventor of the world's first highrise for bats. The result is a tour de force of American Dubious.
As played out on the majestic stage of Montana cattle country, the ensuing drama involves blood, money, sex, vengeance, and a cross-dressing rancher. The Cadence of Grass is renewed evidence that McGuane is one of the finest writers we have, capable of simultaneously burnishing and demolishing the mythology of the West while doing rope tricks with the English language.
The result is a ruefully funny novel of embattled manhood, set in the country that McGuane has made his own: a Montana where cowboys slug it out with speculators, a cattleman's best friend may be his insurance broker, and love and fishing are the only consolations that last.
The unforgettable voyager of this dark comic journey is I. B. “Berl” Pickett, M.D., the die of whose uncharmed life was probably cast as soon as his mother got the bright idea to name him after Irving Berlin. The boyhood insults to any chance of normalcy piled on apace thereafter: the traumatizing, spasmodic spectacle of Pentecostalist Sunday worship; the socially inhibitory accompaniment of his parents on their itinerant rug-shampooing business; the undue technical advancement and emotional retardation that ensued from his erotic initiation at the hands of his aunt. What would have become of this soul had he not gone to medical school, thanks to the surrogate parenting of a local physician and solitary bird hunter?
But there is meaning to life beyond professional accreditation, even in the noblest of callings. Berl’s been on a mission to find it these past few years, though with scant equipment or basis for hope. Hard to say (for the moment anyway) whether his mission has been aided or set back by his having fallen under suspicion of negligent homicide in the death of his former lover. All the same, being ostracized by virtually all his colleagues at the clinic gives him something to chew on: the reality of small-town living as total surveillance more than any semblance of fellowship, even among folks you’ve known your whole life.
Fortunately, for Berl, it doesn’t take a village. And he will find his deliverance in continuing to practice medicine one way or another, as well as in the few human connections he has made, wittingly or not, over the years. The landscape, too, will furnish a hint in what might yet prove, if not a certifiable epiphany, a semi-spiritual awakening in I. B. Pickett, M.D., the inglorious but sole hero of Thomas McGuane’s uproarious and profound exploration of the threads by which we all are hanging.
From one of our most deeply admired storytellers, author of the richly acclaimed Gallatin Canyon, his first collection in nine years.
Set in Thomas McGuane’s accustomed Big Sky country, with its mesmeric powers, these stories attest to the generous compass of his fellow feeling, as well as to his unique way with words and the comic genius that has inspired comparison with Twain and Gogol. The ties of family make for uncomfortable binds: A devoted son is horrified to discover his mother’s antics before she slipped into dementia. A father’s outdoor skills are no match for an ominous change in the weather. But complications arise equally in the absence of blood, as when lifelong friends on a fishing trip finally confront their deep dislike for each other. Or when a gifted traveling cattle breeder succumbs to the lure of a stranger’s offer of easy money. McGuane is as witty and large-hearted as we have ever known him—a jubilant, thunderous confirmation of his status as a modern master.