In the hot Arizona desert of the late 1950s, Mike McGurk comes of age in one big, riotous gush. Trapped pumping gas at a desolate roadstop, he yearns for things he has never known: love, hope, and the soft, white calmness of snow. Mike's world is filled with a menagerie of quirky characters, who cope with the weight of their unfulfilled dreams with bravado, humor, and violence. Mike trades snappy insults with his macho father, Texaco Turk McGurk, a moustachioed amateur boxer and self-proclaimed war hero who is unable to talk about love. Mike lusts after Lily, his seductive, poem-writing cousin. He cowers before and then confronts the vicious Ramses, grandson of Mr. Sneezy, the wisecracking Apache. And he is rescued by his best friend, Bobo, who delivers him into the care of the loving and generous Mama and Papa Garcia. In Search of Snow is an explosive coming-of-age adventure, full of hilarious episodes and still, poignant moments. Like a blue-collar Don Quixote, Mike must blow up his windmills before he can set off to find the things he lacks, especially the snow that will temper the passion he has just set aflame.
Yeah, man—I love this book! I am still proud of it. What can I say? My first novel! Written with boyish enthusiasm. Written in a love affair with Ed Abbey deserts and while drunk on Tom McGuane’s literary stylings. Totally naïve—I even had hair down to my butt when I finished it.
It was a long time coming, this book. A long time through New England winters, a sad broken marriage, divorce and wandering, restorative drives in the Sonoran desert. I had a Jeep and looked like a biker and felt love for every red rock and scaled beast, every vato and every Indian morotrcycle and every rusty Arizona gas station and every road movie.
It started out as a short story. It came and went, in and out of focus. But it wouldn’t go away. It was admittedly a shaggy dog story because I was a shaggy dog. My editor first told me I wrote like an angel; then, when it bombed like many first novels do, the same editor told me I was hardly a master at writing. Ha! I used the last of my dwindling money to buy back all the 3,000 unsold hardcovers so I’d never find it remaindered with a black ink slash across its bottom.
But it refuses to die, and is now in its third different paperback edition. Yay.
Trivial note: I didn’t know how to create the apocalyptically manly dad, Turk McGurk. So I imagined Robert Duvall playing him in a movie. People still, all these years later, tell me Turk is one of their favorite characters. I wish I could tell Mr. Duvall thanks for stomping around on the stage inside my skull.
Finally, I just want to note that I got my favorite review of all time for this book in a New Mexico paper. The reviewer said he pulled a muscle in his chest from laughing so hard at one scene, and he finally understood what it meant to suffer for art. Yes!
Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat: If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.
Reading and talk at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Details here.
Proud to be part of the prestigious series in a reading with Laila Lalami and Shobha Rao. Tickets and details here.
Celebrating the NEA Big Read and Into the Beautiful North in Holyoke, MA. Sponsored by the Mary Lyon Foundation, Holyoke has done some great events all year. Now we get to meet each other! Details here.
Details to come