Saturday, 13 September 2014

Malcolm Brooks reading in Denver

Malcolm responding to a question at the reading. [Photo: Reid Farmer]
Malcolm Brooks is a friend whose first novel, Painted Horses, has been receiving a well deserved widely celebrated reception. His book has been included on many summer reading lists, he has been featured by Barnes and Nobel in their "Discover Great New Writers" series, and the book is widely receiving glowing reviews. Malcolm's writing is being compared to the best of the best: Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Ivan Doig,  and Michael Ondaatje, Wallace Stegner, Thomas McGuane, Annie Proulx and others! All favorites of mine - no wonder I loved the book.  Here's an excerpt from a review in Dallas Morning News.
Painted Horses reads like a cross between Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, with a pinch of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient for good measure. It’s an earnest, romantic novel that seems destined for the silver screen. review by WILLIAM J. COBB, Dallas Morning News.
 I won't say much about the plot except to note that it's a Western novel (with a capital "W") mainly set in 1956 (my birth year) with flashbacks to WWII.  Not only that, but there is a significant character named Caldwell. Malcolm assures me that the character is named for me.

Carlos and I drove down to Denver last Wednesday for Malcolm's reading and book signing at the Tattered Cover.  Steve Bodio flew up from NM for the reading and to introduce Malcolm.   Other Denver friends showed up as well.

Malcolm reading.
Malcolm read one of the most heartbreaking and dramatic pieces from the book. After the reading, Malcolm took questions from the audience. There were some wonderful questions about his process and the origins of the novel. Malcolm's articulate and deeply personal answers captured the imaginations of all of us there.  Aside from the compelling sweeping narrative, Malcom's book reads like a vocabulary of almost lost words, words describing western landscape, horse anatomy, and technical language related to horse tack.  The breadth and depth of Malcolm's experience and research is astounding.

Gathering of the clan: Carlos, OldGunkie, Reid Farmer, Malcolm Brooks, Steve Bodio [photo: Connie Farmer]
And for all of us who think we might just write more if we had the time, Malcolm wrote the book over a period of five years while working full-time as a carpenter in Missoula.  He puts us all to shame.

I took the pig over the door as a very good sign indeed and the menu and food did not disapoint.
After the reading, on Arthur's recommendation, nine friends retired to a fine Italian restaurant Osteria Marco to continue the conversation with food and drink.  I could not resist the Ciccioli Succulent Braised Pulled Pork appetizer and had the Rabbit Roman Gnocchi, Apple-Fennel Braise, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce as a main course.  Wine drinkers among us shared a bottle of red Tuscan wine recommended by the waiter though I do not recall the name.

Our group included:  Arthur (a friend of Steve's with expertise in rare antique military weapons), Arthur's sister, Malcolm, Connie Farmer's sister, Connie Farmer (Reid's wife), Reid Farmer (archeologist and contributor to the Querencia blog), Carlos Martinez Del Rio, Steve, and myself. The food and drink was excellent and then, of course, there was endlessly fascinating and wide ranging conversion; writing and writers (good, bad, and obnoxious), falconry, guns, pigeons, more guns, food, wine, and music. A woefully incomplete list of topics I can recall that were mentioned or discussed included: Annie Dillard, the post-punk band Mission of  Burma, mushroom hunting, Johnny Cash, the eccentric Oxford naturalist Jonathan Kingdon, Remington Model 8 rifles,  Mauser Broomhandles (especially regarding the merits of the 7.63 Mauser cartridge over the 9mm Luger chambering), Annie Proulx, the 1903 Mannlicher Schoenaur rifle, technical details (that were beyond my ken) of evolutionary biology of horses, dinosaurs, birds and lizards.

Our table at Osteria Marco.
A good time was had by all.  I can not imagine anyone who better deserves the astounding success Malcolm is enjoying and the wonderful reception of his exceptional novel.   Congratulations Malcolm!   ... and if you don't have a copy - get one. 


  1. I was fortunate to read a pre-publication copy of Painted Horses, and I want to add my voice to the chorus praising this novel. You can't put it down while reading it, and it lingers in the mind afterwards.

  2. Jim, I am humbled, truly. That night at the Tattered Cover will always be a high point for me, because so many of my clan were able to be there. And to have an introduction from Steve, well...what more is there to say? Many thanks to Reid and Connie for lodging and shuttling and just damned fine company, and to Gerry, who I wish had been with us in person...!