Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

Review and Giveaway: Love Give Us One Death by Jeff P. Jones

  Bonnie and Clyde in the Last Days
Jeff P. Jones

**WINNER: 2016 Idaho Author Award**
**WINNER: 2015 George Garrett Fiction Prize**

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Texas Review Press
Date of Publication: October 25, 2016
Number of Pages: 232
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Bonnie and Clyde are the most famous outlaw pair in American history. Frank Hamer, the legendary Texas Ranger, was hired to stop them. Part prose, part verse, with historical artifacts interwoven, the well-researched novel tells the story of their deaths on a lonely Louisiana back road, as well as their bloody and short lives together. Its many voices invite the reader to become a ghost rider along with Bonnie and Clyde, while it also exposes the forces of injustice and greed that created them.

“If you are a fan of historical fiction, you must secure a copy of his debut novel in which Jones ‘added, subtracted and distorted facts’ adroitly and creatively in his re-telling of Bonnie and Clyde’s last days. There are very few writers who can write like Jones — in many voices and in various forms — but he choreographs his work like an award-winning producer, designating him as unique as the members of the Clyde Barrow Gang.” -Idaho Statesman
“Love Give Us One Death delivers not only a knock-out story of brutal adventure, and love, across the heartland of the Great Depression, but a story about the very character of the republic itself.” -Robert Wrigley, Poet
“This is the history of love and destruction you didn’t know you needed. In a time of Public Enemies, we see the last legs of a journey between the violent and manic Romeo and Juliet-like pair. The last public outlaws are riding away into their last sunrise, and this book serves as its journal.” -Atticus Books
“The language is absolutely stunning. Characterization, historical setting, ambience are all accurate and depicted with great clarity. A terrific achievement.” -Mary Clearman Blew, Author of All But the Waltz
“This is historical fiction raised boldly to the level of myth.” -Tracy Daugherty, Author of The Last Love Song



Everybody knows who Bonnie and Clyde were. To my knowledge, they were the first real ride or die outlaw couple. I’m not one romanticize crime, even if their love was more epic than Bobby and Whitney, so I never mooned over their story. I never took the time to research what their story was before (I do this all the time about random things, especially historical figures, so this is unusual. Trust me.). Jones has changed all that for me.
From the first page, I was hooked with the imagery and the first glance into what made Bonnie tick. Fake it until you make it comes to mind. Shaking off fear or insecurity by throwing your arms up in the air and whizzing through life going, “Wooooo!” like a roller coaster. You get that vibe from Bonnie the few times she gets unsettled. To be honest, she is what kept this story rolling for me. I didn’t find Clyde all that interesting, but Bonnie was something else.
I knew a girl who reminded me of Bonnie. She, too, was small of stature and seemed to batt away the potential coddling by establishing her sailor’s mouth before anyone can get a word in sideways. But that’s about where their similarities end. Bonnie has a husband locked away somewhere. I had no idea about that tidbit and got a bit ruffled that one of history’s most (in)famous love stories is adulterous. But then I remembered Elizabeth and Richard, Angelina and Brad, and got over it. Maybe I’m just in the Bonnie’s Club now, but I found it endearing that she didn’t have the heart to divorce her man while he was in the slammer.
Jones’ imagery and free flowing dialogue are a real treat as you get to know the couple separately, and then witness their first meeting. You can feel the heat between them and the strength of their characters through their deliberate speech. I don’t know how accurate that would be to how they were in real life, but given from the testimonies of people recalling them in between chapter, I like to think that Jones has them painted right.
And what a light has been shown on that painting. I always thought of Bonnie and Clyde as a couple of gunslingers running around in fast cars with their middle fingers up in the air. I didn’t know that Clyde had tried numerous times to live the straight life. That the law kept finding and forcing him out back into a life of crime. I really like this quote from Nelson Algren: “Who were Bonnie and Clyde? They were children of the wilderness whose wilderness had been razed.” People think mostly about children, little children, when you think about how an environment changes people – nature vs nurture, that kind of thing. For all they’d already experienced in their lives, Bonnie and Clyde were teenagers. Barely through with being children.
The change in storytelling style and perspective keeps everything fresh. It sort of feels like you’re flipping through a scrapbook of all their news clippings or something, mixed in with sound bytes from the various people they came across. I’m really impressed with what went into making such a cohesive and interesting read. I know this is historical fiction, but it all felt very real. It did its job of making me more curious about the actual historical events. Jones’ afterword is a great read too. You really respect all the effort that went into this work.
JEFF P. JONES’s ancestors were sharecroppers in east Texas. He was born in Denver, and was educated at the University of Colorado at Denver, the University of Washington, and the University of Idaho. He’s a MacDowell Fellow, and his writing has won a Pushcart Prize, as well as the Hackney, Meridian Editors’, A. David Schwartz, Wabash, and Lamar York prizes. He lives on the Palouse in northern Idaho. This is his first book.


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December 13 – December 22, 2016
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Author Interview: Mourner’s Bench by Sanderia Faye

by Sanderia Faye
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
Date of Publication: September 15, 2015
# of pages: 340

 Praise for Mourner’s Bench:
“An absorbing meditation on the meaning of religion in a small town as well as a keen-eyed perspective on the way one African-American community encountered the civil rights movement. An astute coming-of-age tale set against an all-too-relevant background.” 
— Kirkus 


What was your inspiration for Mourner’s Bench?

It was a prompt in a writing class that went something like “write until I tell you to stop about a story you’ve heard before but you are not sure if it is true or false.” I wrote approximately two handwritten pages about two young girls who worked for SNCC registering voters along the country roads of the Arkansas Delta.

After I read what I had scribbled on the pages to the class, we spent the remainder of the class discussing the civil rights movement and the role young people played in it. That story of those girls piqued my interest, so I started asking questions and researching the civil rights movement in Arkansas. I realized that I knew very little about Arkansas and the civil rights movement. The media and historians covered the integration of Central High School, but there wasn’t very much written about Arkansas’s role during the 1960s.


I became absorbed in the history, and how, as a fiction writer, I could place these young girls inside that rich history. I wondered who they were, who were their families, where did they live, and along with many other questions, how did they become so brave? Of course, when I started writing, the story took on a life of its own, and although the friendship between the girls is included in the novel, the story became more about the one girl, Sarah, and her family.


Why was this time in history important?

It wasn’t just the history, which is extremely important and was what led me to the story, but it became more about the people, their behavior, traditions and language. These things set against the backdrop of the history of the civil rights movement are what made this time important to me. It was a time of discovery, pride, bravery, and ownership for African Americans.


What makes this book relevant today?

I don’t believe there would be any time in history where this novel wouldn’t be relevant. The civil rights movement did not end for African Americans in the 1960s. We have continued to fight for justice both privately and publicly. Now, with the consistent brutality by the police throughout the country, the movement has become more public again, but I don’t believe any African Americans would say that they are now or have ever received equal rights and privileges as the dominant culture. This is also a book about a family and a community. If you take out the historical setting, it would still be about relationships between mothers and daughters and church and state.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Voice is important in my writing. I need to hear the characters speak before I began to write. The story has to come alive in my mind where I hear the sounds and see the setting.


What is the mission you set out to accomplish with your voice in this book?

I didn’t have a particular mission initially except to learn to write. It was my practice novel; the one that wouldn’t ever get published. Later, I realized that it was important to American history, especially Arkansas history.


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