Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

bert without crop

This is my Uncle Bert Yates next to his 1952 Hudson Wasp, a car he rebuilt and drove for years. Bertram worked for Beechcraft and then Boeing in Wichita, Kansas. He was the fascinating and mysterious uncle who could never tell us cousins a word about what his work entailed. It was classified, top secret. Long after retirement, at my grandmother Mary Yates’s funeral, he admitted his surprise that I felt so curious. He said, as if it were nothing special, that the last thing he worked on before turning in his keys and waving goodbye was an intricate camera for bombers, the first that could focus and see at night. He left it at that. When he asked me for a signed copy of “The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel,” I asked him to get this photograph made, one of him beside one of the many Hudsons he rebuilt. He had a business card he gave me once long ago that read: THE HUDSONITE FAMILY, as if restoring these lost automobiles solidified one into a sparkling, exotic mineral, Hudsonite. I love how the light in the photograph glows in his hair as if more and more lumens of inspiration and fire have suddenly alighted there.

Uncle James in The Legend of the Albino Farm: A Novel blends the love and company of all my uncles, I’m sure, maybe even some of the uncle I have been, or not been, to my nieces. The novel is dedicated to all my nieces. Here is one of Uncle James’s big scenes with his niece, Hettienne, from Chapter 5:

The coffee propelled James as did a worry like none he had ever experienced, an urgency beyond any foaling or calving. Half-an-hour after Charlotte checked on Hettienne and reported her asleep, the rest of the cranky clan returned home smelling of gunpowder, sweat, and hardwood smoke. They threw their fits and got in their last jibes. Finally all went to bed. But he sat up in the parlor with the kerosene lamp going and a good view of the stairs. To take his mind off Hettienne’s spells, he reread the stilted old novel about the shepherd of the hills and his daughter, a cozy comfort fiction filled with hillbilly characters unlike anyone he knew in the Ozarks. Just as he was coming to the big scene when the heroine fainted, James fell soundly asleep.

He jolted awake. All the comforting sounds of the house, the brassy clicking of the E. Ingraham wall clock in Simon’s southwest bedroom, the swish of curtains in the summer night’s breeze seemed a conspiracy to mask trouble. He crept up the stairs, peered through Hettienne’s open bedroom door. Her bed was empty, the sheets twisted in a wad.

Out the back window of the kitchen was a light up in the loft over the stables flickering where none belonged. James lifted as carefully as he could from the gun cabinet the .20-gauge Remington Model 11. He found a flashlight, bulky and heavy. Then he hustled to the back door. He never walked the grounds of Emerald Park at night in any season without the Remington, for vermin were ample in the dark, and the opossum could be vicious.

He eased down the back steps, the flashlight in his fist, the shotgun at his shoulder. At the stable doors he heard no crackle of flame, smelled no sharp smoke of hay alight. Up in the vast loft the horse-mad Headley’s had constructed above their stone stable to rest nights and keep watch on mares foaling, the orange light flickered. The horses were astir, snorting, bobbing their heads.

At the base of the loft stairs, he listened, and dimmed the flashlight by pressing its face against his thigh. He smelled an unmistakable blast of turpentine oil and camphor mixed with an aroma he could not place. A sound then, like a quilt snapped out twice on a porch. The whole air above him stirred. Horses started, circled in their stalls. One kicked out, the crack of its hoof against the wood like a tree limb popping in an ice storm. When he took the first stair, a grunt sounded from up there, then a bark like no animal he had ever heard.

Before his head topped the stairway, the medicinal smell diminished, while the other aroma redoubled, thick in the furnace of air above him, heavy like a fruit, melon sweet, then putrid, rotting. Something long dead. A sound like a broom scuttling across the timbers.

At the top of the stairs, he spied the source of the light, a crusty miner’s lamp, some relic of the Headleys and their cave ride. In the pool of this light, a white, gleaming young faerie girl, opaline-white smeared on her elbows, her upper arms, and down her long legs. It was Hettienne wearing a white, roomy weskit that belonged to Margaret. The camphor and turpentine smell came from her sparkling skin and the open crock beside her of Roy Boy’s White Horse Liniment. A steamer trunk blocked his view of half the loft. And back there in the darkness was where he imagined the animal had hidden itself.

Her eyes did not turn to him or his flashlight. Instead they swallowed the air whole with no life at all behind them.

“Hettienne,” he whispered.

She did not stir. There came a riffle behind the trunk and a smell like the metallic stink of feathers, and then the musk of urea and rotting flesh. The aroma clasped the whole loft. Behind the steamer trunk, the head of a buzzard jutted up. Gray, creased flesh, and no waddle, but one gray-rimmed, black eyeball cocked at him now. Its head was not like the red head and neck of local turkey vultures. Instead the gray head bore scales and a defined bib of gray, scaly armor on its neck. Dull gray scales stretched up to the crown of its head.

“Hettienne,” he called, louder this time.

The girl did not move. But the buzzard, in a ceremony of threat, raised the stiff arms of its wings, extending their tips like massive fingers. On their undersides, glaring feathers of pure white glowed at each wingtip. Its narrow legs, now exposed, were a shocking white. It bobbed its head, making a barking sound, High-unnh, High-unnh.

Setting the shotgun and flashlight down, James moved swiftly. With its wings unfurled, the vulture, just bigger than a tom turkey, could not navigate much. It tottered and hissed to fend off his approach. Then it arched its neck and vomited a splash of amber, half-digested matter at him.

He grabbed for its nape just at the bill, hooking his thumb behind its bare head, knotty, prickly, and hard as an oak gall. Wrapping his fingers under its beak and neck, he jerked the bird upward. Then, with all he could muster, with both hands clasped on the thing, he lifted it up off its feet and whirled it around his head until the neck popped.


Read Full Post »

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.

View original post

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Ozarks Alive

Discovering the hidden gems of the Ozarks


Romance novels, authors, and taste-tested recipes

A Rep Reading

An exploration

Bookmagnet's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

normatalksabout. . .

Writing about love, death and bigotry

%d bloggers like this: