Last year, September 2016, at the Ozarks Studies Symposium, this is what I said about “The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel.” We leave for West Plains Thursday, and Friday, September 22, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. we’ll see if I lived up to this challenge. The whole slate of presenters is at http://ozarksymposium.wp.missouristate.edu/Presenters.htm

Fiction and History

Why write The Legend of the Albino Farm from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

WEST PLAINS, Missouri — At the 2016 Ozarks Studies Symposium, Steve Yates, author of the forthcoming novel, The Legend of the Albino Farm, answers a surprise question from Matthew J. Hernando (“Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks“). The answer tells why Yates wrote such a novel, which will be available from Unbridled Books in April 2017.

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21105667_1640802182597848_4866065216999220108_nWHAT: Matthew Guinn and Steve Yates preview the 2018 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration and introduce the theme, Southern Gothic

WHERE: Natchez Brewing Company, 207 High Street, Natchez, Mississippi

WHEN: Friday, October 13, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m.

BOOK SALES: Turning Pages Books & More, Natchez, http://turningpagesbooks.com/

Some starter culture: Being of the Ozarks, I am not sure you’ll permit my speaking of a “Southern” Gothic. The Ozarks is that Balkan (we daren’t say Transylvanian) borderland between our lush South and the windswept, flat line of our empire’s Great Plains. So situate me where you will, please, as charitably among you or as the hillbilly troll blocking the mountain pass.

The Ozarks Gothic, probably very like the Southern Gothic, requires a paradise lost, preferably a mansion in or bound for ruin, a memory or ghost of a memory of glory that haunts all its decaying rooms, a seductive back lighting of forlorn despair, the uncanny perception by one or more characters of inevitability, and of course it requires throughout the dark embroidery of death.

We Americans, Southerners, and Ozarkers have dramatically advanced the Gothic, from undead creations, amulets and castles, and fevered monks to tangible monsters and complex, even culpable characters, people such as you and me. Trace if you will in your own reading memory the arc from Edgar Allan Poe’s breathless and sexless “The Fall of the House of Usher” through a psychological vortex such as Henry James’s “The Turn of the Screw,” to the mastery, brevity, and the real horror of Truman Capote’s “A Tree of Night.” Gothic? Hold my zombie; we’ve got this.

20170903_060313In writing The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel, I intended to implode the most seductive and preposterous of my Ozarks hometown’s spook tales and replace it with a fiction gleaned from a fated, wealthy Irish Catholic family’s wills, deeds, and death certificates. You see, what actually happened at the Albino Farm was the real horror. I am right-handed, practical, an Ozarks realist. But I always write my fiction while a black cat sleeps in my left hand.

You can catch more of the mood of my novel from “The Legend of the Albino Farm” book trailer. See you in Natchez along with my friend and a novelist I much admire, Matthew Guinn.

from the Clarion-Ledger / Hattiesburg American Mississippi Books Page

Sunday, May 14, 2017

By Matthew Guinn


“Happy families are all alike,” Leo Tolstoy famously said, but “every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” For the feuding Sheehys and Ormonds of Steve Yates’ The Legend of the Albino Farm, the fractured clan is so unhappy as to be one-of-a-kind, sui generis.

Yates’ characters embody personalities as flinty as the Ozarks soil they once farmed. And as their once-grand farm disintegrates, Yates gives us a fresh take on the plantation-gone-to-dust trope.

The urban legend of the novel’s title is one that sprang up about a misperceived late-night incident between two of the Sheehy clan and a group of drunken revelers partying at the edge of the Sheehy farm. This is not the space to reveal the truth of the encounter, but suffice it to say that given the dark night, the amount of cheap beer consumed, and the appearance of the Sheehys, the trespassers leave the property terrified that they have been accosted by two pale and ghostly apparitions intent on harming them.

Back in Springfield relating their misadventure, the partiers embellish the tale and the rumor mill buffs it even further. In time, the Sheehy place becomes known as The Albino Farm—the forbidding abode of every type of boogeyman the community can project onto it.  Rumors swirl about breeding—even incestuous breeding—among the “albinos” by a kind of mad Doctor Moreau. In each retelling, the tales grow wilder, imbued with the accretion of urban folklore down the years.

Meanwhile relations in the Sheehy-Ormond family are rapidly deteriorating. As the Sheehy patriarchs die off, inheritances are disputed and the reading of last wills and testaments unearths old grudges quietly nursed for years. Neither the Sheehys nor the Ormonds are the type ever to forget a slight, and as the land is parceled out, the once-idyllic wonderland that the Irish families called a Aes Sidhe (“fairy land”) is whittled down to a rotting old manse and a patchwork of mismanaged acreage.

One of the putative “albinos,” Hettienne Sheehy, emerges as the center of the family disputes. Turns out that the ill-fated night that birthed the farm’s new moniker was the catalyst for a rift started, maintained, and indeed nurtured over decades. Hettienne, intent to abscond her inheritance, grows increasingly obstinate as she reaches adulthood.

It is in Hettienne’s adulthood and marriage that the novel achieves its strongest pitch. Yates is a realist, and his depiction of adult relationships is assured, wise, and true. Hettienne and Wes’ marriage is a prolonged partnership in which the episodes of bliss are not, alas, the norm. Rather, Hettienne’s contentious relation to her inheritance comprises “the only prominent obstacle to a happy, rounded existence” for the pair. So much so that at one point, Wes tells her, “If we were not Catholic and were not married under God, I would leave you now.” In such scenes the damaged Hettienne comes fully to life, and the reader hangs on the tension of whether or not she will ever let the past be fully behind her—whether the summers of her youth in Missouri will ever be laid to rest.

If the border state setting of Missouri might call into question The Legend of the Albino Farm’s southernness, the style and quality of Yates’ writing do not. In its attention to the details of domestic and family life, Albino Farm echoes the work of Katherine Ann Porter and Eudora Welty; the obduracy of the grown and estranged Hettienne calls to mind Ron Rash’s Serena.

The quality of Yates’ prose merits such comparisons. In Yates’ telling, a vulture does not merely fly overhead, it is seen to “spiral thoughtfully” over the Sheehy place. A dirty truck parked out front of the farmhouse is streaked with “sienna fans of dried mud.” In the wreckage of the once-grand house, a tall window is patched with “a sheet of Visqueen stretched and nailed across it, and in the night wind, this black, shining membrane bulged and collapsed in fitful, crackling cycles.”

With The Legend of the Albino Farm, Yates adds to a growing ouvre of historical fiction including his works Morkans Quarry and The Teeth of the Souls. He also adds another powerful novel to the growing body of Ozarks—and Mississippi—literature.

* * *

Matthew Guinn is the author of The Resurrectionist and The Scribe. He is an associate professor of creative writing at Belhaven University.


This made no sense to Hettienne. Strange? Saturn? How could anyone ever think that Emerald Park was scary, lonely, and strange? Here was where you ran and yelled like Indians, and no one on Earth could stop you. Here was where nine nobles strove to defend castle walls and never once were defeated. Here was where lightning bugs answered flashing stars across gold bays of meadow hemmed in purple forest and sheltered by navy sky.

from The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel published by Unbridled Books

On the campus of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, in a recital hall where the novel’s main character, Hettienne Sheehy, attended concerts and chorals, 18010796_10211570021757432_8848822537898277000_nwe launched The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel at the Unbound Book Festival. If you have not put this festival on your literary map, please do so now. Its second year was spectacular. Here’s a recording of the interview among Unbridled Books editor, Greg Michalson, and two of his authors, Peter Geye (Safe from the Sea; Lighthouse Road) and me: https://vimeo.com/214373398. The night before, staying at Michalson Farm, we toured past the Stephens College stables, where, in the novel, Hettienne taught equestrian. And at Michalson Farm, I must add, we comforted a very pregnant mare out of Holy Bull.

“Happenings @ the Library

from LibeWire, Staff Newsletter of the Springfield-Greene County Library

It was standing room only at the Library Station on Sunday, April 23, for Steve Yates’ talk about his new book “The Legend of the Albino Farm.” Fifty-five people attended and enjoyed Steve’s reading and the Q&A that followed. Collection Services Manager Lisa Sampley sold out the 30 copies of the book she brought. “Thanks to her for keeping us classy at the book signing,” said Branch Manager Kim Flores. “It was especially gratifying to see so many people inside the library on the first nice weather day we’ve had for a while.” Steve followed up with a full house of 36 in the Library Center room B on Monday, April 24. Photograph at the Library Station by Kim Flores.20170423_140714

Steve responded on Monday with this note of thanks: “I am just dizzy with wonder at the two events we just achieved. Thank you all so much for your help! Lisa, who stayed and stayed while patrons chatted, had only four copies left last night. Wow! Here’s a video of the reading at The Library Center, https://vimeo.com/214676117 and the Question and Answer is at https://vimeo.com/214677380 ”

18119238_927327530703761_8737146363786523239_nIn addition to the two library lectures, successful signings happened at BookMarx and at Barnes & Noble-Springfield, where Reneé has been a supporter of every book I have published. Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas, also had a happy turnout and a nearly full room. It was great to see old friends and meet new readers! The photograph above is by Allis Hammond of the University of Arkansas Programs in Creative Writing and Translation.

Signed books are available in limited supply at

325 E Walnut St
Springfield, MO 65806
Reserve your copy at (417) 501-1062

Barnes & Noble-Springfield
3055 South Glenstone
Springfield, MO 65804
Reserve your copy at(417) 885-0026

Nightbird Books
304 W. Dickson Street
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Reserve your copy at (479) 443-2080

Media Coverage

Tailgate Guys Countryside BBQ Radio Show

The Springfield News-Leader

USA Today Entertainment Network

KSMU Ozarks Public Broadcasting

Ozarks Alive

Midwestern Gothic

Missouri Review Podcast

KRFU Columbia Morning with David Lile

KSFG Author of the Week with Nick Reed

I spoke to W. D. Blackmon’s Creative Writing class at Missouri State University and, after a vigorous Q & A, I signed books for the students, who had already read the novel. This is the class in which I learned to write fiction, and I was there in service to the professor who taught me how to write.

I concluded time in Springfield as the featured speaker of the Drury University English Symposium, sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, honoring Drury’s graduating seniors. This was a moving ceremony—Drury’s English Department has clearly created an intensely supportive community among its students—and I was quite honored to be part of it. See the reading at https://vimeo.com/215009850

The Legend of the Albino Farm Book Trailer from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

Why write The Legend of the Albino Farm from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

WEST PLAINS, Missouri — At the 2016 Ozarks Studies Symposium, Steve Yates, author of the forthcoming novel, The Legend of the Albino Farm, answers a surprise question from Matthew J. Hernando (“Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks“). The answer tells why Yates wrote such a novel, which will be available from Unbridled Books in April 2017.

Steve Yates reads from “Sandy and Wayne: A Novella” at the Ozarks Studies Symposium from Steven B Yates on Vimeo.

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