Well, a publication date has been set for my upcoming novel, Lone Dog Road. It will be in bookstores in late April or early May.
Many of you have asked about it and many of you even contributed to choosing the title — thank you for that, you guided me well. Soon I may be able to have cover options for you to comment on.
I love working with this new start up publisher — Polished Stone Publishing — a venture started by some of the folks from New World Library, which has been a loyal publisher of mine for almost 35 years. Polished Stone has the energy and creativity of a fresh enterprise and the intelligence and wisdom of an experienced publisher, exactly the combination I was looking for. There is always risk with a young enterprise but the rewards are great, and I’m excited to see how this goes. But it is going to require the assistance of you, my loyal readers, to get the word out and to help my new literary toddler find its legs. More about that as the months go on.
For now I want to give you a taste of Lone Dog Road in a short overview of the book that is being used in the publishing world.
Lone Dog Road is picaresque tale of compassion and redemption played out against the haunting backdrop of the American high plains during the drought-stricken summer of 1950.
It begins with two young Lakota boys, ages 10 and 6, huddled in a boxcar as they run from a government agent sent to take the younger boy to an Indian boarding school. But what begins as a pursuit soon becomes a complex human drama as lives intersect with the boys as they make their way to the pipestone quarries of western Minnesota to replace their great-grandfather’s čhaŋnúŋpa, or sacred pipe, that was broken by the government agent.
The cast of characters is rich and sympathetically rendered. A middle-aged wanderer grieving for his deceased dog and seeking a place to put his life together; a Lakota woman and her ex-seminarian husband struggling to overcome an unspeakable tragedy while trying to eke out a living on the unforgiving South Dakota prairie; their elderly Dakotah friend and neighbor, confined to a wheelchair since an accident in her youth and now watching over the collection of artifacts left her by her grandfather; a Black traveling troubadour who makes his living singing spirituals in small towns across the Midwest; the mixed-blood government agent who is pursuing the boys; their watchful great grandfather whose čhaŋnúŋpa. they are trying to replace; the boys’ distant and vigilant mother who bears the wounds of her people as a cultural and personal burden; and, of course, the boys, one dreaming of a worthy manhood and one who is, as his brother says “other minded.” And at the center of it all, drawing them together in ways that none of them really understands, is the čhaŋnúŋpa, the sacred pipe.
This is an ambitious project, walking where angels fear to tread, because each chapter is written in a first person voice, and the prevailing cultural winds do not favor a white male author seeking to inhabit the minds and hearts of characters of different cultural backgrounds and experiences. But my entire artistic life has been built upon being a sympathetic and compassionate watcher and listener, and in these times of balkanized cultural identities, we artists need to reach across boundaries to reveal the hearts and minds, not only of those who are like us, but of all those who in their unique ways, share in the common human struggle.
It is with this vision that I wrote Lone Dog Road, a novel of braided lives. I will be updating you regularly, offering you excerpts and asking for your opinions and insights. I loved writing this book and am excited to get it in your hands.