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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

BookMarx
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

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Hernando_Faces Like Devils_FNL
Matthew J. Hernando is Instructor of History and Government at Ozark Technical Community College, Hollister, Missouri. He has contributed articles and book reviews to such publications as the North Louisiana Historical Association Journal, the White River Valley Historical Quarterly, and the online journal Civil War Book Review.

Faces Like Devils: The Bald Knobber Vigilantes in the Ozarks was published in the spring of 2015 by University of Missouri Press.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, Matthew.

Q: You graduated from Louisiana State University, and you now work in the Ozarks. Were your people from the Ozarks?

A: Alas, no they weren’t. I am totally an adopted Ozarker. My family relocated to the area from New Jersey in 1990. I was ten years old at that time. So far as I know, no member of my family ever lived here before that point. My mother’s family is Scottish, and my father’s family is Russian, Polish, and Filipino.

Photograph by James D. Hernando

Photograph by James D. Hernando

In a weird way, however, I think that I might actually have a bit of an advantage not being a native Ozarker. A lot of things that a native of the region might take for granted—such as the continuous “insider” versus “outsider” dynamic that plays out time and again in our history—strike me as different and fascinating. Perhaps as a result of that I have always found the history of this area intriguing, which may explain why I chose this topic.

Q: The Bald Knobbers existed in three counties in the Missouri Ozarks—Taney, Christian, and Douglas. Briefly what were the Bald Knobbers and how many men were involved?

A: The Bald Knobbers were a vigilante organization that were founded in Taney County sometime in the winter of 1884 to 1885. Thereafter they spread north into the neighboring counties of Christian and Douglas. Contemporary accounts suggest that up to a thousand men may have belonged to the Bald Knobbers, although I have only been able to document the names of around 140 members in the three counties.

Q: Why would Ozarkers choose to improvise and circumvent existing, elected civil authority?

A: For the same reason that other nineteenth century Americans did so in other places: they became dissatisfied with the operation of the legitimate law enforcement mechanisms in their communities, either because they did not move fast enough or because they yielded results that many people found to be unjust or inequitable. If you look at nineteenth century America, particularly Post-Civil War, you have these sorts of organizations popping up everywhere. Right here in Missouri you have organizations like the Stone County Sons of Honor, the Marmiton League in Vernon County, the Anti-Horse Thief Association up in Clarke County, and of course the Klu Klux Klan, which was heavily active in Southeast Missouri. So what happened in Southwest Missouri in the 1880’s is hardly unique.

Q: You say significantly in the book and in your conclusion that some of the conflict was an extension of, or was perceived by participants as an extension of, the very bloody and often personal Civil War in the Ozarks. What had these men learned in the war?

A: Well, first and foremost they had learned that violence solves problems, and they had learned how to use violence to solve problems. They had also learned to view people from the “other side” of that conflict with suspicion and hostility. It’s no accident that, among the Bald Knobbers who were old enough to have served in the Civil War, union veterans predominated. Moreover, in Taney County – where the Bald Knobbers actually faced organized opposition – confederate veterans flocked to the Anti-Bald Knobber faction.

At the same time, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Civil War loyalties were the sole factor in determining whether a person joined the Bald Knobbers, something that I don’t say in the book. Instead, I see civil war loyalties as one of several factors that could influence that decision, including economic or financial motives, a concern for law and order, a desire for probity in local government, and a person’s willingness to impose his own version of morality upon his neighbors.

Q: Other counties saw the rise of anti-horse thief leagues or law-and-order committees. Why did Taney County in particular see a vigilante group that became so large and dominant so fast?

A: By the mid-1880’s, conditions were ripe for vigilante justice to take hold in Taney County. First, you have the local political situation: the end of ex-confederate disfranchisement in 1872 led to local Democrats recapturing control of local government in Taney County, so for about a decade you have this clique of Democratic, mostly southern sympathizing, office-holders calling the shots in local politics. At the same time, you have substantial immigration from former Union states—including the North and the Mid-West—which brought in a lot of people who were ill-disposed to accept this state of affairs. The newcomers blamed Taney County’s problems on the Democratic “courthouse ring” or “old county ring” controlling local government. They particularly focused their ire on the county’s burgeoning local debt—which reached the once staggering total of $42,600 in 1883—even though as I point out in the book the county’s debt problem actually began before the Democrats took over.

The other issue the critics harped on was crime, particularly violent crime, which they said the local authorities had allowed to get out of control. There was a lot of talk about crime statistics leading up to the Bald Knobber episode. A commonly cited claim was that some thirty to forty murders had occurred in Taney County during the twenty years from the end of the war to the founding of the Bald Knobbers, although that claim has never been substantiated. As often happens, however, perception became more important than reality. The perception that Taney County had become this wild, lawless place was reinforced by a number of high profile violent crimes that did occur in Taney County in the early 1880’s, particularly the murders of Amos Ring and James Everett, and the attempted murders of John T. Dickenson and his wife by the brothers Frank and Tubal Taylor, whom the Bald Knobbers later lynched.

Underlying the complaints about crime and corruption, however, was a very real concern on the part of many of the vigilantes for the progress of their community. To them “progress” meant continued immigration to Taney County, as well as new investment, business development, and so on. Many of them had moved to the area expecting to participate in what they anticipated would be a bright and prosperous future, and they saw that future jeopardized by what they perceived as rampant crime and political corruption. Such a threat justified taking extreme steps to wage what the Bald Knobber chieftain Nat Kinney described in his typically overheated rhetoric as a “war between civilization and barbarism” in which all the county’s “best men”—lawyers, doctors, businessmen, taxpayers, etc.—sided with him, while presumably the county’s “worst” element sided with his opponents.

Q: The Christian and Douglas County Bald Knobbers were very different organizations than what started in Taney County. How so?

A: That’s a great question because it gets to the heart of the distinction I try to draw in the book: I view the two groups of Bald Knobbers as being very different organizations. They differed first in terms of composition: they attracted different sorts of people into their ranks. The Taney County group consisted mainly of middle and upper class men who tended to be older (about forty years old on average), and came from diverse occupational and geographical backgrounds. About half of them practiced something other than agriculture as their primary form of employment, and several were successful lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and politicians. Only about three in ten claimed Missouri as their birth place. By contrast, the Bald Knobbers in Christian and Douglas counties tended to be younger (averaging age of about thirty), and came from poorer, less socially-prominent backgrounds. A majority of them claimed Missouri as their birthplace, while about nine in ten practiced agriculture as their primary livelihood. Needless to say, fewer of them ever became lawyers, businessmen, or politicians.

They also differed in terms of their motives. As we’ve seen, the Taney County group organized primarily in response to issues like crime and violence, and corruption in local government. By contrast, the Bald Knobbers in the two northern counties, particularly Christian county, displayed a much greater interest in what I call “moral regulation,” or the use of vigilante tactics to impose your own version of morality and proper behavior on your community. That’s why they engaged in such actions as busting up the “blind tigers” (i.e., saloons) in Chadwick, or whipping adulterers, sexual deviants, and people who abused or neglected their families.
They also attempted to advance the economic interests of their members, which was perhaps similar to the Taney County vigilantes, except that in Christian and Douglas counties the focus was different: they were primarily concerned with protecting the livelihoods of their members, rather than promoting the economic “progress” of their community, per se. For example, many of the Bald Knobbers in these counties—like a lot of people at that time—supplemented their income through “tie-hacking,” or cutting railroad ties for the old Frisco Railroad that ran through the area. As a result, they sometimes clashed with officials from local timber companies who in their view treated their members unfairly. On at least two occasions, they attempted to coerce company representatives from a Springfield-based timber company into giving them more favorable prices for their ties and not rejecting as many substandard ties.

The concern with timber also helps explain why so many of them became involved in homesteader intimidation cases. From 1887 through 1888 dozens of Bald Knobbers from Christian and Douglas counties stood trial in federal court for intimidating homesteaders and running them off their land. As I argue in the book, they did so because they felt homesteaders were crowding them off of land they had used for years, especially for timber-cutting (i.e., “tie-hacking”) purposes. This is something, by the way, that was entirely absent among the Taney County Bald Knobbers, none of whom were arrested for intimidating homesteaders.

Q: I was fascinated to learn that the Taney County Bald Knobbers wore no masks, but the Christian and Douglas County Bald Knobbers had the very distinctive horned sacks with red thread setting off the eyes. Why would one group operate unmasked and overtly and the other always in disguise?

A: You can pretty much boil the answer to that question down to one word: power. After about 1884, the old Democratic courthouse ring had been vanquished in Taney County, and the Bald Knobbers and their Republican allies clearly held control over the local government, as they would continue to do long after the organization itself had phased out of existence. For example, from 1886 to 1892 four known Bald Knobbers or former Bald Knobbers—James K. Polk McHaffie, Galba Branson, Reuben Isaacs, and John L. Cook—held the office of sheriff. Other Bald Knobbers would frequently hold such offices as county clerk, assessor, treasurer, and prosecutor well into the 1890’s. So if you’re in charge, why disguise your identity? You can count on your friends in local government to protect you.

By contrast, the Bald Knobbers in Christian and Douglas counties never had anywhere near that level of influence. They were poorer, less socially prominent, and few if any of them held political office. They needed to disguise their identities because they were more vulnerable to prosecution for their vigilante activities. Ironically enough, those fearsome Bald Knobber masks were a mark of that comparative vulnerability.

Q: A colleague of mine often trots out the phrase, “It’s all about money and power.” How would that apply to the Bald Knobbers?

A: Were the Bald Knobbers interested in money and power? Absolutely. But I think it would be a mistake to reduce it to that. I see the Bald Knobber episode as being primarily a struggle over the future. The men who joined the vigilantes had a particular vision of the future that they wanted to create for themselves and their communities, and they were willing to use force to make it a reality.

Q: What drove you to write this?

A: As a child growing up in the Ozarks, I could hardly have avoided some contact with the Bald Knobbers, or at least the Bald Knobber mythology presented in popular culture. I rode the “Fire in the Hole” ride at Silver Dollar City, and I read Shepherd of the Hills for the first time in middle school. But it wasn’t until I did a research paper on Christian County as part of a class I took at LSU that I first began to think about tackling this project seriously. A small section of that paper concerned the Bald Knobbers, and my professor made the comment that he would have liked to find out more about this group. I thought, “Well, so would I.”

Q: There is a LOT of sensational information and misinformation from newspapers and all the other books about the Bald Knobbers. How did you fend off the “story” to salvage the history?

A: First, I set out to dig as deeply as possible into the available primary sources: newspapers, numerous court records, contemporary accounts, census records, tax records, and so on. I also tried to ask questions a lot of questions that hadn’t really been tackled systematically before. For example, I wanted to know not just what the Bald Knobbers did—who they whipped, lynched, drove out, etc.—but who they were. What type of men joined this group? Where did they come from? What were their social and/or professional backgrounds? What was their family status? Had they been veterans? If so, which side did they fight for?

Lastly, I tried to let the sources guide my research by raising new questions that I hadn’t considered before. For example, one of the things I investigated a little more closely than previous writers is the lawsuit between Nat Kinney and the City of Springfield, which stemmed from an injury he sustained when he fell into a pot hole on a city street. I became fascinated by the fact that, in the midst of all these tumultuous events going on in Taney County, he was simultaneously involved in protracted litigation against a municipal government that actually lasted beyond his death. Without giving away too much of what is in the book, the way that case played out sheds some light on the Bald Knobber episode down in Taney County and the role that Nat Kinney played in it.

Q: Assuming that there is an Ozarks Literature and then there are trends within that Ozarks Literature, I see now a raft of novels that involve crime, lawlessness, murder: Laura McHugh’s The Weight of Blood, many of Daniel Woodrell’s novels. What in the narrative of the Bald Knobbers has contributed to the persistence of our rough justice narratives?

A: As I suspect you probably know, the Bald Knobbers owe much of their enduring notoriety to one man: the minister-turned-author Harold Bell Wright, whose wildly popular 1907 novel, Shepherd of the Hills, included a highly sensationalized depiction of the group as a gang of cut-throats and outlaws who defied the law and terrorized their neighbors. Since then, this distorted image of the Bald Knobbers has been linked to the Ozarks in the popular imagination, even as the actual history of the group has been largely forgotten. It is no surprise that when the Mabe family decided to open their hillbilly-themed music show in Branson in 1959, they chose the name “Baldknobbers” for their enterprise. It is also no surprise that much of the popular literature concerning the region should focus on themes like crime and violence, not only because that stuff sells books, but also because that is how the region has been portrayed for more than a century.

Q: Are there ways in which this vigilante instinct later contributed to the horrific years of racially motivated lynchings in Joplin, Pierce City, and Springfield? Why were Ozarkers seemingly hardwired to answer anything they feared with a rope?

A: Well, once again, it is only fair to point out that a lot of nineteenth century Americans shared that same predisposition. Ozarkers were not unique in that respect. I would say that the Bald Knobbers, and their numerous late nineteenth century counterparts both in Missouri and the rest of the country, set a precedent that tended to normalize vigilante justice in the eyes of many Americans and Ozarkers. The rash of racially-motivated violence that struck the Ozarks around the turn of the century—which Kimberly Harper chronicles so well in White Man’s Heaven—naturally drew upon that precedent. As always, it becomes easier for people to contemplate doing something when it has been done before.

Q: Any word on when and if Faces Like Devils will appear in paperback?

A: Alas, no word on that yet. That decision will be made by the University of Missouri Press.

Q: Are you done with this subject? What will you work on for your second book?

A: I am done with it for now, except that I am often asked to give talks to various local groups about the Bald Knobbers, which I am usually very happy to do. Next month, for example, I am giving an address to the Vernon County Historical Society. As for my second project, I will be honest and say I have not got very far yet. I am exploring a couple of possible topics, but my teaching load keeps me rather busy during the Fall and Spring semesters.

Thanks again for taking the time to do this, Matthew. I hope you find the time and space to write about the Ozarks again, and soon!

Interviewer Steve Yates is the author of two novels set in the Ozarks, Morkan’s Quarry and The Teeth of the Souls. His collection, Some Kinds of Love: Stories, won the Juniper Prize and was published by University of Massachusetts Press. Sandy and Wayne: A Novella, chosen for Big Fiction’s Knickerbocker Prize by New York Times-bestselling author Lauren Groff, is forthcoming this February from Dock Street Press in Seattle.

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Steve Yates won the 2012 Juniper Prize for fiction, established in 2004 by the University of Massachusetts Press in collaboration with the UMass Amherst MFA Program for Poets and Writers, presented annually for an outstanding work of literary fiction. His collection, Some Kinds of Love: Stories, will be published by University of Massachusetts Press in April 2013. Sabina Murray, author of The Caprices and Tales of the New World among others, was the judge. The dozen fictions in Some Kinds of Love: Stories were all published in nationally renowned literary magazines such as the Missouri Review, Southwest Review, and TriQuarterly. One was honored by Richard Russo and the editors of Best American Short Stories 2010 as among the 100 Distinguished Stories of 2009. Another story was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Yates was born and reared in Springfield, Missouri, attended Greenwood Laboratory School and graduated from Glendale High School. He then graduated from Missouri State University and later earned his MFA in writing from University of Arkansas. His first novel, Morkan’s Quarry, set in Springfield, the surrounding Ozarks, and St. Louis in the Civil War, was published by Moon City Press in 2010. Yates is assistant director / marketing director at University Press of Mississippi in Jackson, and lives in Flowood with his wife, Tammy.

Q: So Some Kinds of Love: Stories is a short story collection. It’s not the sequel to Morkan’s Quarry?

A: Right, these are twelve stories I wrote and published between 1990 and 2012. But, one of the stories, published originally in the Missouri Review, is really an adapted version of chapter two from the sequel to Morkan’s Quarry. So for any reader demanding to be back in the 1860s in Springfield with the Morkans, Some Kinds of Love: Stories has a taste of what’s to come.

Q: So how many of these stories are set in Springfield or the Ozarks?

A: Seven of the twelve. Four happen in Springfield, and two others happen in Niangua and then Seligman, and the last story happens in a made up Ozarks town, Lawry City, which could be Strafford or Lebanon or Springfield, anywhere where all-night softball tournaments happen. Did you know that people outside the Missouri Ozarks don’t know what all-night softball tournaments are? Isn’t that extraordinary? In the workshop at Fayetteville, Arkansas, seated around that conference table in the writing program were super-talented young writers from Ireland, Burma, Virginia, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, California, Oklahoma, Mississippi, all over the nation and globe, and the great John Williams (author of Stoner and Butcher’s Crossing and a National Book Award winner) is leading the workshop. The last story in Some Kinds of Love is up for critique, and there is not much astonishment expressed at a seer who can only see an hour into the future or the real biblical apocalypse descending. The first questions are, “What is an all-night softball tournament? Is there really such a thing anywhere?”

Q: What are the other stories set in Springfield about?

A: One is about a detective pursuing Ether Eddie, a serial-home-invader case that maybe Springfield has forgotten. But when I was in high school at Glendale and working at the News-Leader, the ghastly, creepy invasiveness of Ether Eddie was constantly on everyone’s minds. A transformative moment when innocence and safety evaporated. The wonderful writers who have blurbed Some Kinds of Love: Stories—Ben Fountain, Steve Yarbrough, Brad Watson—and many other writers who have read the manuscript have mentioned how troubling and affecting that story is.

Q: How can a crime or a cop story be about love?

A: Oh, the detective—made up by the way, other than the details of what Ether Eddie was doing when he slipped into homes, etherized young women in Southern Hills, and watched them sleep, other than those details, I made the story up—but the detective has a daughter, and he loves her very much. Eddie represents to him the end of a way of life in Southern Hills, the end of a sort of idyll. And the detective loves his job, loves hunting complicated bad guys.

Q: Is the Ozarks all that unique?

A: The end of it that I used to know from Lake Pomme de Terre down to Fayetteville, Arkansas, certainly seems unique. Draw an oval right around those two points and think of the variety of people and landscape, think of the economic differences and energy. Especially in the crossroads marketplace that was and is Springfield. I mean, there’s a reason Sam Walton DID NOT open his first Sam’s Club in Arkansas. He did it in Springfield because we made for an awesome test market. In that oval between those points of the Ozarks, you will find the most adept and adaptable sales force in the nation, the Guy Smileys and Bob Barkers of America. They understand the dour Midwestern tone; they are totally down with the hillbilly’s wont to go-it-alone; and they can soften up to the Southerner without setting off Yankee alarm bells.

Q: Is that the sort of people you write about, sales people? I mean, these aren’t Chamber of Commerce stories?

A: I do tend to write about people who are employed and whose worldviews are shot through with perceptions gained at work. One of the oddest things for me about contemporary American writing that tries to be literary fiction is this: people seem to have no discernible means of economic support in short story after short story, novel after novel. No jobs. Magic trust-fund babies do Portland! Whee! Americans are intensely defined by the work we do; few national workforces in industrialized countries work harder and longer and yet go back for more and say they love it.

Q: So that’s where we get the list on the back of the book—pioneers, limestone quarry owners, nurses, sex toy catalog designers, attorneys, missile guidance masterminds, librarians, highway engineers?

A: From age eleven I had a paying job, whether I was a gofer at Yates, Mauck, Robinett, and Bohrer, or at sixteen, a sportswriter for the Springfield News-Leader, I was doing something for a wage, and had big, black rings under my eyes. Even in graduate school in Fayetteville when there were no teaching slots, I surveyed highways in the summers and did construction inspection. Work matters to American life, and certainly to the Ozarks I know. I don’t think I could write a story about someone without a job. I mean, even Mrs. Bridge was affected by a job and really had a job, right? She was the wife of attorney, Mr. Bridge, and mother of three. She ran a household in Kansas City, and her leisure hours confounded her.

Q: Okay, that’s a lot about work, but the story collection is called Some Kinds of Love. What about love?

A: Well, the book is dedicated to my wife, Tamara Gebhart Yates, also of Springfield, for a lot of reasons. For a major inspirational reason in that she was the one who dared me to write a happy ending. Why in undergraduate school at Missouri State and graduate school at University of Arkansas in the late 1980s, early 1990s were we writing all these stark stories with fatalistic, inconclusive endings? Tammy hated that vogue and dared me point blank to think outside of it. And it ended up that each of these characters I invented found their struggle was with some aspect of love, how love did not work the way they demanded it to or the way venial desires led them to believe it did.

Q: So does everybody end up happy, happy, sunsets and holding hands? Who is this book for?

A: No, I can’t conceive that Hollywood, Disney outlook. Love is work sure as life is work. And I keep fretting that people won’t recognize that some books are for adults only. This book is called Some Kinds of Love, so people in the book will tear their clothes off and do terrible things to each other as surely as they may undress and do loving or merciful things that are nonetheless adult in content. My wife will sometimes ask when I fret about this, “People realize you’re not writing Hallmark cards, right?” Watching the public at my own book signings for Morkan’s Quarry and at book signings for University Press of Mississippi, my employer, I don’t know what people recognize any more. I think they are too busy sometimes, and find themselves somewhere with their kids, who may already have seen way more violence and depravity in movies and on television than I ever want to stomach.

Q: So the other five stories, they’re about what and set where?

A: The south. One in New Orleans, two in Jackson, Mississippi, one in West Point, Mississippi, and one in Port Gibson, Mississippi. And they are about all kinds of people—a terrorist cell member and a librarian who fall in love; three gay men in a love triangle, one of whom is stealing; a lawyer in Port Gibson who is losing his daughter and his town; a missile guidance mastermind and his pig-throwing son.

Q: Pig throwing?

A: In a slow news cycle right before Christmas, a young Mississippian in West Point was arrested for a series of outrageous incidents in which he cast live animals, mainly pigs, across retail counters. In the age of the internet, this got everywhere, posting and sharing. My Mississippi colleagues were mortified that the nation was paying attention to this news story, and naturally so. I mean, imagine had this been a bored country kid hurling pigs in Marshfield or Buffalo, and it could easily have been! I obsessed about it. It was performance art, I insisted. He was casting living missiles into the heart of corporate America! My dear Mississippi colleagues were not won over to this narrative. And so I wrote a short story.

Q: What does the title, Some Kinds of Love: Stories, mean? What’s it from?

A: Only a book geek would come up with a dream like this. As soon as I conceived of the title, since again and again love seemed to be what I was writing about, I realized something in Dewey decimal destiny might happen. There is a great short story collection, which all of us in creative writing programs have read and learned from, a classic. Now that University of Massachusetts Press has published this, there exists the distinct Dewey-decimal-system possibility that in some library where fiction is shelved the spines in a row will read Richard Yates: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, and then a humble answer, Steve Yates: Some Kinds of Love. As a kid I was left alone for hours and hours on end at the Brentwood Library. It had a pronounced effect on me.

Q: So what will you be doing in the Ozarks for this book?

A: Monday, May 13, I’ll be in Springfield at the Library Center in the Auditorium, 4653 Campbell at 7 p.m. Books will be sold by Barnes & Noble in Springfield. You can ring B & N at (417) 885-0026. On Wednesday, May 15, from 4-7 p.m. I’ll be at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, (479) 443-2080. That’s during the Farmer’s Market, so just drop in and I’ll be signing. And we come back to Barnes & Noble Springfield on Glenstone Saturday, May 18, from 1-3 p.m., just signing there. You can link to any of these sites at the events link here on the blog

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