Praise for Morkan’s Quarry
May 2010, Moon City Press
Distributed by the University of Arkansas Press
Hardback ISBN 978-0-913785-24-9
“With the epic sweep of Cold Mountain and the rich, tender character and scene development of Snow Falling on Cedars, Steve Yates has written one of the most powerful war novels of modern times, swift as a battle, unforgettable, and a tribute to all those whose loyalty to place has surmounted loyalty to cause.”
—Donald Harington, author of The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks, The Choiring of the Trees, Enduring, and many more
“With his wonderfully clear prose, his unerring knowledge of time and place, his deep sense of character, and his sheer storytelling power, Yates will, yes, show you the horrors of war, but, more than that, he will bring these characters fully to life. This is first-rate work. Pay attention. Read it well. You will be moved.”
—Donald Hays, author of The Dixie Association and The Hangman’s Children
“From first page to the end, Morkan’s Quarry is a meticulously researched labor of love in historical novel form.”
—Suzann Ledbetter, author of Klondike Fever and Deliverance Drive
from Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies
I swear, Yates introduces characters so genuinely and fully, you’re stunned to discover they weren’t figures borrowed from history…. Yates can set a scene with the best of them, and capture the broad vistas of battle as ably as he evokes the most tender exchanges between family and lovers. His Morkans, Michael and Leighton, must navigate a treacherous terrain of betrayal, treason, battle, prison, murder, and redemption. Their reward, like the reader’s, is so very worth the journey…. Further, I suspect readers of Civil War fiction, 19th century Ozarks life, and those who care about the lives of fathers trying to pass on some legacy to their sons will be grateful to Yates and Moon City Press for Morkan’s Quarry. My hope is that it remains on shelves for quite some time, dazzling us with its prose, seducing us with its plot, and allowing us to lose or just as easily find ourselves in its indelibly human portrait.
Tom Williams, Morehead State University, author of The Mimic’s Own Voice
from Midtown Moments
This book was remarkable in its ability to convey what the feeling in the city was like and what it must have been like to live in our area 150 years ago. The book inspired me to visit the graves of the unknown Union and Confederate soldiers that are buried in the Springfield National Cemetery at the corner of Glenstone and Seminole. I have driven by that cemetery countless times, but I never knew all of the history that it contained. As I walked among the tombstones I thought about the young men that were buried there. I wondered what their personal lives had been like before the war… Morkan’s Quarry is a fascinating historical look at Springfield and society in general 150 years ago. I believe that it also sets a poignant example for us in our current political climate. I am glad that I read it.
Brian King, Secretary, Midtown Neighborhood Association
from Mississippi Digital Daily
A coming of age story in many ways, “Morkan’s Quarry” is a rich, powerful novel that blends a brilliant sense of time and place with well-drawn scenes and characters that will make deep impressions with their courage, loyalty and determination. Whatever his son, friends and employees think of Michael Morkan’s attempts to stay out of the war (many in town view him as a traitor), his strength and character shine brightest while he’s being tortured.
Likewise, Leighton, whom Michael viewed as a rather soft kid, has hardened into a strong man and leader by the time Michael, who is in poor health once finally released from prison, is reunited with his son. While Leighton has mixed emotions about his father’s need to “choose sides,” the young man, in his daring attempt to rescue his father, displays all the loyalty to the Morkan name that the elder Morkan could hope for. And in the end, once he is finally home, Michael Morkan is forced to make a choice that will define him forever.
Yates paints a grim portrait of the destruction of entire towns that took place during the war and the heavy physical and emotional toll it took on so many families. You’ll almost feel yourself breathing in the lime dust that coated everything the Morkan family held dear. You’ll smell the heating oil, the gunpowder…and the ever-present death and decay.
“Morkan’s Quarry” is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Civil War. It’s a gripping family saga that entertains and educates on a grand scale. It’s a lesson not only in tragedy and suffering, but in all that’s good about the human spirit and the refusal to surrender one’s principles.
Joe Lee, MSDigitalDaily.com
from 417 Magazine
A Springfield native who resides in Mississippi, Steve Yates has taken on the sweeping complexity of the Civil War and paired it with a story about love and family. It’s a long adventure and even though the pace rolls out calmly, you don’t want to put this book down. I didn’t, and I am not the kind of person who’s normally interested in war-related fiction. But Yates does a wonderful job of making this story about much more than the Civil War. That is the backdrop, and the reason for Morkan’s trials. (And readers who are interested in the Civil War or local history will relish the details in this book. The research it must have taken to weave this story is impressive). But I was drawn to the personal saga, to Morkan and Leighton’s desire desire to protect what feels like home to them: Their family and their quarry.
Katie Pollock, editor, 417 Magazine
from Buck and Ball
Steve Yates, whose previous fiction has been published in the Missouri Review and other venues, makes his debut as a novelist with Morkan’s Quarry. From the University of Arkansas Press catalogue: “In 1861, the Civil War severs Michael Morkan fom everything he loves and all that defines him — from his son, Leighton; from his love, Cora Slade; and from the quarry he owns in Springfield, Missouri. Forced to give his black powder to the Missouri State Guard, he finds himself indeliably labeled a rebel traitor and is imprisoned in St. Louis. Back in the Ozarks, Leighton joins the Federal Home Guards in hopes of paroling his father. When Leighton finally frees him, the two are pitched in a last gambit for their quarry and for the legacy of the name Morkan.” For further information call the University of Arkansas Press at 1-800-626-0090, or visit their website: www.uapress.com
The Civil War Roundtable of the Ozarks, Buck and Ball
from Portico Jackson
Local author Steve Yates, originally from Missouri, has penned quite an extraordinary novel based on limestone quarries active during the Civil War in his native state. The novel explores the character Morkan and his quarry, and centers on the heroes as seen in preachers, tailors, nurses and miners. According to Yates, “A great number of people in the Ozarks didn’t want to have anything to do with the war, wanted to be left alone to their work. They dreaded what was coming. I wanted to portray that risky ground, those real people, business owners, hard working people caught in a maelstrom.” As the assistant director/marketing director of University Press of Mississippi, Yates’ first novel follows on the heels of much success with short fiction in such publications as “Texas Review,” “Turnstile,” “Western Humanities Review,” among others. This captivating father/son story gives a new dimension to the Civil War body.
Nan Graves Goodman, Portico Jackson
from The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, MS)
Mississippi resident Steve Yates goes back to his native Springfield, Mo. roots for the site of his debut novel based on the Civil War’s impacts on a father and a son in their struggles to regain/retain their limestone quarry.
Like granite, the book rings solid and true from the first page. And like the war, what begins for Michael and his son Leighton as a simple fear of what might come next slowly grows to envelop a cold horror larger than either could have imagined.
Yates’ research on mining and dressing stone quickly sets the stage for a novel that is historically accurate and well-researched in every aspect. But never fear that the action will become ensnarled in the details. Rather, the reader is introduced to the main theme in the novel’s first paragraph. Yates shows a confidence rarely seen in a first novel: Place the framework in the reader’s hands with promises of what’s to come. Then fulfill and surpass those promises.
Joe White, The Clarion-Ledger
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
The third jewel is Morkan’s Quarry: A Novel (Moon City Press, hardback, $27.95), by noted author and marketing director of University Press of Mississippi, Steve Yates. Initially set at a Springfield, Missouri stone mining quarry, this literary venture is strong on metaphor, suggesting that the blasting and chiseling of stone reveals its inner sculpture in much the same way that the horrors of war lay bear the inner man or woman’s greed, viciousness, compassion or humanity. The protagonist, Michael Morkan, is labeled a rebel traitor and imprisoned in St. Louis, separated from his quarry, son Leighton, and love, Cora Slade. Leighton joins the Federal Home Guards to free his father, thereby setting them all on the path to their fateful destiny. This is a journey well worth taking for the reader, partly because of the well-fashioned plot, but primarily for the rich characterizations and heart-rending prose so finely-crafted by Yates. Yates surely writes in the tradition of a Hal Phillips or Shelby Foote, sticking to his metaphorical premise as he explores the bright and dark regions of the human soul—“For the first time, Morkan felt victory coming, felt it like a sediment in his chest, a base that dried him, cured him, and left him hollow of vengeance, hollow, and to his surprise, at peace.”
Jim Fraiser, The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
The Southern Register
Morkan’s Quarry is filled with the details we leave behind, both in war and in life–clothing, jewelery, handwriting, body parts, dignity, sanity, lives–details Yates uses to draw us into the 19th-century world. There is Michael’s script in his letters and contracts with his “scythe-like swoops”; Leighton’s way of chiseling plumb letters on his mother’s tombstone; a cut callus swept into a desk drawer; a rosewood hair clip. And always those scraps of contracts, notes, and letters found in pockets, desk drawers, or even caves, the writing and grammar a reflection of the person’s character, inherent goodness (or not), and upbringing. Yates links theme and plot, lining up stone to quarried stone as he builds this solid and powerful story.
At one point Leighton shows a clumsy soldier how to cut limestone properly. “It’s an act of faith,” he says to the officer. “Don’t look at me or the hammer or else the chuck will drop and you’ll waste stone…. As the chuck travels, you’ll feel a change.”
The officer watches Leighton chisel, awestruck. You will read this book in much the same way.
Margaret McMullan, The Southern Register
from Jackson Free-Press
While heroes and rogues of the war make occasional appearances, the story doesn’t focus on them. Those fighting the war are merely a dynamic part of the bloody scenery that surrounds the true focus of the tale—the Missourians simply trying to live their lives. This approach should strike a poignant note and serve as a reminder that although our wars are now fought thousands of miles away, it does not mean that they don’t alter lives and livelihoods daily—and rarely for the better. In a metaphor for our country, Leighton becomes a man through his war experiences—a strong and honorable man—but loses his innocence and zest in the process.
Yates knows the business of rock quarrying and weaves extensive details within the narrative. As the pages turn, one almost expects to stir up a cloud of lime dust. A native of Springfield, Mo., his descriptions of the majestic Ozarks were a bonus that made the story feel all the more real. While the story is 100 percent fiction (as the author reminds us), one has a hard time reading the book without being tempted to think of the tale as history. Be it the descriptions, the faithful depiction of 19th-century Ozark life, or even the classic layout and style of the book, “Morkan’s Quarry” delivers an exciting and thought-provoking read.