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S.M. Hulse Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Black River (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Eden Mine (2020) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

S.M. Hulse is a western fiction author from Spokane Washington that is best known for her novels “Black River” and “Eden Mine.” Her debut novel “Black River” was an award-winning title that was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, Indie Next Pick and an American Booksellers Association Introduce novel. She has also written short fiction that has been featured in “Salamander,” “Witness,” and “Willow Springs.” Hulse has been a writer from a very young age as she had a journalist or a father and a retired English teacher for a mother. As such, she was writing stories and stories and words were a huge part of her life that she had written her first manuscript by the time she was in high school. She would then write another while in college and while she would not publish any of them, she learned a lot about the writing process. As a teen, all Hulse wanted to do was work in the foreign service and so she went to Georgetown but dropped out within a year. She transferred to the University of Montana and took a degree in English before she started teaching high school students in Idaho. She then proceeded to the University of Oregon for her MFA and was a University of Wisconsin-Madison fiction fellow. This was the time she began writing and publishing her short stories.

Hulse loved reading contemporary westerns from the likes of “Lives of the Monster Dogs” by Kirsten Barkis, “The Power of the Dog” by Thomas Savage, “Three Day Road” by Joseph Boyden, “Gilead” by Marilynn Robinson and “The Clearing” by Tim Gautreaux. As such, it was almost inevitable that she would seek to write contemporary western fiction. From her time living in Montana as a graduate student, she fell in love with Western literature and the American West. There were many stereotypes and mythologies about the West and S.M. Hulse was interested in exploring them through stories. Hulse is interested in major events and their aftermath and when she read about the Montana State Prison riot, she wondered about the consequences on those involved over the long term. She started writing her manuscript and the time she spent as a James C. McCreight Fellow proved invaluable in writing her debut novel “Black River.” She had never been a big city person and so she spent much of her time driving into the countryside where she got to enjoy the small towns and the Midwestern landscape first hand. Hulse went to the University of Wisconsin with a rough draft and after a semester of writing and revisions she had an agent and by June 2013 had sold it to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

S.M Hulse has invented a new version of the contemporary western in her fiction. She updates the content of the genre and thrusts the violent themes from that era into the modern-day. While she uses violent themes in both her novels, she delivers the material with uncommon tenderness. Even though the subject matter is not softened, it has a contemplative and slower feel to it that has made the author be compared to Thomas McGuane and Kent Haruf. In a recent interview, she asserted that she set out to write a contemporary novel and not a contemporary western. However, the novel came out as a western given that the characters and places she wrote about happened to be what she liked about the west, where she has lived for much of her life. Hulse revisits the themes and events from the history of the west that have become almost mythical and definitely familiar to the American mind by offering a different contemporary take.

Hulse’s “Black River” tells the story of a talented fiddler and prison guard named Wes Carver that is back in Montana to bury his wife. He also has a two-decade-old grudge with an inmate that had once held him hostage in the huge prison riot in the 1950s. He has come back to Black River with a letter from the prison parole board and his wife’s ashes. The man he wants revenge on is being considered for early release and he hopes to meet him when he comes out. He had left town immediately after the riot and been away for twenty years. Wes had grown up in Black River, a small town in the mountains and had followed in his father’s footsteps who like his father before him had worked in corrections. He was also a natural and talented fiddler that found joy and solace in music. But during the riot, everything had changed for Wes when Bobby Williams had held him hostage, in the process taking away his ability to play and undermining his faith. Could the man that was once an embodiment of evil now be good? Could anything other than death be enough punishment for his crimes? As Wes ponders his options, he needs to decide if it is the right thing to let Williams who claims to be reformed walk away. With stunning detail and spare prose, S.M. Hulse drops his readers deep into the darkness and heart of an American town.

“Eden Mine” by S.M. Hulse introduces Jo Faber that is packing up the home she had inherited alongside her brother Samuel. The Fabers going back several generations have lived near Eden Mine but Samuel and Jo are leaving, as the home is now the property of the state. When Jo first heard of the bombing, she did not know what to make of it though she had an eerie feeling. When Sheriff Hawkins their unofficial guardian and friend arrives, her suspicions are confirmed. Her brother Samuel had left to go find work but he is now missing and had last been spotted at Elk Fork near the district courthouse. Samuel and Jo had once seen their mother become crippled and so violence is nothing new to them. They had to take care of her with Samuel making a special rigging in their barn to allow her to ride the family mule as she had done before. But the tragedy had transformed Samuel as he had gotten close to and joined a separatist group before he had disappeared for years. She believed he was done with all that but now that he is missing again, she does not know what to make of it. It is a beautiful story of faith in the face of evil, love for the land, and the choices that people are sometimes forced to make for their loved ones.

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