Thursday, May 26th: Fiction. Samuel Ligon reads from his new novel Among the Dead and Dreaming and short story collection Wonderland, joined by Shawn Vestal reading from his novel Daredevils. 6 pm.
Nikki has spent her life running from her abusive mother and the violent boyfriend she killed years ago, and now from his brother, Burke, just released from prison. Burke doesn't know yet how his brother died, but he's obsessed with finding Nikki and claiming her—and her daughter—as his own. Now she's run out of room to run.
"A masterful exhibition in storytelling; a breathless page-turner. Ligon drives his narrative like a Formula One racer. Buckle your seat belts and get ready for a thrilling ride."
—Jonathan Evison, West of Here
“I didn’t know how much there was to want in the world until I saw Sheena, and then I wanted it all.” These thirteen short-short stories by Samuel Ligon, illustrated by collage artist Stephen Knezovich, are as dark and absurd as they are poignant, playful, and true, examining men and women and love and loss and donkeys and goats and murder, carnivals, and whiskey bosoms. “Nobody deserves love. Or everyone does. It comes and it goes of its own free will. Like fever. Like flood. Like the greatest thing you’re ever gonna lose. And once it’s gone, it’s gone for good...”
"Wonderland is a fantastic collection of stories. Sam Ligon has mastered the art of capturing the sweet derangement of love. His characters are drunk with desire and reckless in all the right ways, and his prose is incandescent, absurd, wickedly funny and, in the end, achingly true." —Steve Almond
Samuel Ligon’s most recent books are Among the Dead and Dreaming, a novel, and Wonderland, a collection of stories illustrated by Stephen Knezovich. Ligon edits the journal Willow Springs, teaches at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, and is Artistic Director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.
From the winner of 2014’s PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize, an unforgettable debut novel about Loretta, a teenager married off as a “sister wife,” who makes a break for freedom.
At the heart of this exciting debut novel, set in Arizona and Idaho in the mid-1970s, is fifteen-year-old Loretta, who slips out of her bedroom every evening to meet her so-called gentile boyfriend. Her strict Mormon parents catch her returning one night, and promptly marry her off to Dean Harder, a devout yet materialistic fundamentalist who already has a wife and a brood of kids. The Harders relocate to his native Idaho, where Dean’s teenage nephew Jason falls hard for Loretta. A Zeppelin and Tolkien fan, Jason worships Evel Knievel and longs to leave his close-minded community. He and Loretta make a break for it. They drive all night, stay in hotels, and relish their dizzying burst of teenage freedom as they seek to recover Dean’s cache of “Mormon gold.” But someone Loretta left behind is on their trail…
A riveting story of desire and escape, Daredevils boasts memorable set pieces and a rich cast of secondary characters. There’s Dean’s other wife, Ruth, who as a child in the 1950s was separated from her parents during the notorious Short Creek raid, when federal agents descended on a Mormon fundamentalist community. There’s Jason’s best friend, Boyd, part Native American and caught up in the activist spirit of the time, who comes along for the ride, with disastrous results. And Vestal’s ultimate creation is a superbly sleazy chatterbox—a man who might or might not be Evel Knievel himself—who works his charms on Loretta at a casino in Elko, Nevada.
Shawn Vestal made his literary debut with Godforsaken Idaho, a story collection that won the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and was shortlisted for the Saroyan Prize. A graduate of the Eastern Washington University MFA program, his stories have appeared in Tin House, Ecotone, McSweeney's, The Southern Review and other journals. He writes a column for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, where he lives with his wife and son.