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The Hour of Lead

A Novel

List Price: $15.95

May 12, 2015 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 400 Pages | ISBN 9781619022928
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A Kirkus "Best Fiction Book" of 2014

A finalist for the 2014 Washington State Book Award in Fiction

Lonesome Animals was named as a Best Book of 2012 by both The Seattle Times and Slate, a literary debut sparkling with beautiful language set against the rugged landscape of 1920s Washington state. Bruce Holbert now returns with The Hour of Lead, an epic family novel and coming of age story that is once again imbibed with the mythology of the west.

After losing both his twin and his father in a brutal, unexpected snowstorm, Matt Lawson must take over the family ranch. As his mother disappears into grief, Matt learns the hardest lesson the west has to teach: he is on his own. The necessity of work stabilizes young Matt against the pitfalls of first love with Wendy, the daughter of a local grocer, and their ragged end will sent Matt on a journey across the county, leaving Wendy to tend the ranch with local schoolteacher Linda Jefferson and her unwieldy son Lucky. It will take decades for Matt to learn his way back home, and that long journey will have great impact on all of those around him.

Invoking the same beautiful landscape and language of his critically-acclaimed debut, The Hour of Lead is a wider, more expansive novel, less violent but just as affecting, another important contribution to the literature of the west.

Bruce Holbert is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Hotel Amerika, Other Voices, The Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review, West Wind Review, Cairn and the New York Times. Bruce Holbert grew up on the Columbia River in the shadow of the Grand Coulee and a stone’s throw from the Okanogan Mountains. His great-grandfather was an Indian scout and among the first settlers of the Grand Coulee. Visit


“Bruce Holbert is a lyrical, soulful chronicler of our ever-changing West.” —Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

“The rugged land and lives of rural Eastern Washington form the setting for Bruce Holbert’s riveting and beautifully written new novel, The Hour of Lead… What’s here instead is a portrait of a disappearing way of life, lovingly told in gorgeous and moving prose.” —Seattle Times

“Holbert’s second novel is a tale of the American West as faithful to the legends as McCarthy’s Border Trilogy. Holbert’s work rings out with the hard, clean truths of love and loyalty, family and friendship, all flowering from thickets of poetic language, some simple (“work was praying the same prayer everyday”), some gut-wrenching… Holbert’s powerful work echoes the romance of America’s Western experience. A masterpiece.” —Kirkus Starred Review

“Holbert has been compared to Cormac McCarthy, but really he brings to mind the early John Steinbeck, as in To a God Unknown, with its melodrama and twisted pantheism.” —Booklist

“A dark, sad tale… Holbert’s clever conclusion offers several surprising twist and some satisfaction.” —Publishers Weekly

“His new novel is like Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove without the twinkle in Gus McCrae’s eye or the wide-open plains… With rich historical detail and a driving narrative rhythm, Holbert has built a brooding novel of hard work, good luck and redemption.” —Shelf Awareness

“Holbert’s characters, defined by their temperaments or their sins, are unforgettable…. The Hour of Lead (the title comes from Emily Dickinson) captures the reader in the first daring chapter and, with prose that builds to a driving rhythm, holds on until the end. This is a fine novel and a masterful tribute to the “late” pioneers, men and women who grew up in remote areas of Washington State where, unconnected by good roads or north-south passenger trains, they learned the value of hard work and fair play. Highly recommended.” —Historical Novel Society

“Holbert […] creates a Western landscape that is as tough and stubborn as its characters. He often draws comparison to Cormac McCarthy, and it’s easy to see why. His stark yet beautiful landscapes are populated with strong, often damaged characters. This compelling story offers a fair share of shocking twists and more than a small dose of violence. But Holbert’s writing brings a lyrical sense to even the most gruesome scenes as he traces the history of the Grand Coulee country through the first half of the 20th century. It’s a severe and gorgeous place to visit, and Holbert makes for a fine tour guide.” —The Spokesman Review

The Hour of Lead is simply a gorgeous book. The characters in Bruce Holbert’s beautifully imagined new novel endure extraordinary pain as they negotiate the complicated landscape of rural Washington state; with each breathtaking sentence, Holbert brings us into their lives, sorrows, and longings with a fierce, compassionate vision that does not let the reader go.” —Karen E. Bender, author of Refund

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