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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

Cold Country by Russell Rowland

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Cold Country by Russell Rowland


Cold Country by Russell Rowland


Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Paperback: 274 pages
ISBN: 978-1-945814-92-1
Product Not Yet Released
Orders ship in October

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Montana, 1968: The small town of Paradise Valley is ripped open when popular rancher and notorious bachelor Tom Butcher is found murdered one morning, beaten to death by a baseball bat. Suspicion among the tight-knit community immediately falls on the outsider, Carl Logan, who recently moved in with his family and his troubled son Roger. What Carl doesn't realize is that there are plenty of people in Paradise Valley who have reason to kill Tom Butcher.

Complications arise when the investigating officers discover that Tom Butcher had a secret—a secret he kept even from Junior Kirby, a lifelong rancher and Butcher’s best friend. As accusations fly and secrets are revealed one after another, the people of Paradise Valley learn how deeply Tom Butcher was embedded in their lives, and that they may not have known him at all.

With familiar mastery, Russell Rowland, the author of In Open Spaces and Fifty-Six Counties, returns to rural Montana to explore a small town torn apart by secrets and suspicions, and how the tenuous bonds of friendship struggle to hold against the differences that would sever us.


Russell Rowland’s new novel, set in the shadow of the Big Horn Mountains, is a murder mystery of sorts, but while readers are rapidly turning pages to learn who did it, they’ll also find that Rowland is peeling away the layers of a larger mystery. How can it be that those to whom we are closestóour friends, our neighbors, our family members remain so unknowable to us? Cold Country is remarkable in many respects, perhaps chiefly in the way Russell Rowland finds extraordinary drama in ordinary lives.

— Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948 and Let Him Go

I can’t think of an easier pick for a book club than a page-turning murder mystery with multifaceted characters, a profoundly satisfying ending, and plenty to induce a spirited debate! In Cold Country, Russell Rowland places his finger on the pulse of a small Montana ranching community and the outsiders hoping to set up a home there. Writing in the tradition of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and McCarthy, Rowland’s powerful style fools with its simplicity, and he often turns his eye toward the harsh realities of daily living (stitching the wounds of livestock, facilitating a birth, disciplining a child) to uncover beauty, tenderness, and meaning. As he digs deep into the hearts of his characters, we recognize our own tangled relationships, the burden of the secrets we keep, our own prejudices, our fears of being alone, unloved, or unwanted. Like the land he writes about, this book will leave you humbled, wrestling, and in awe.

—Susan Henderson, author of Up from the Blue and Flicker of Old Dreams

Years ago, I wrote that Russell Rowland was like a cross between Richard Ford and John Irving. I hereby revise that opinion. He’s better. He’s warmer, more relaxed and also more alert to the tensions between people. There’s a moment early in the book where a key character tastes some blood in his mouth during a quiet neighborhood chat. I’ve had that moment in a faraway, very different place. I was suddenly right there in Rowland’s world, in the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains. That’s fine writing. I try not to taste blood in my mouth often. Cold Country is one of the best books I’ve read in half a century of very hard living and reading. Where it goes, I won’t even try to tell you. But this is the difference between a kind of good writing and someone who can actually tell a story. Maybe we all live in a small community.

—Kris Saknussemm, author of Private Midnight and Reverend America


Russell Rowland was born in Bozeman, MT in 1957. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. Cold Country is his fifth novel and his seventh book. His first novel, In Open Spaces, was called ‘a novel of muted elegance’ by the New York Times. He lives in Billings, Montana.