The 2014 Montana Book Award winner is “Fourth of July Creek” by Smith Henderson. The award recognizes literary and artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by a resident of Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with a Montana theme or issue. Presentation of the award will be at 7 p.m. April 8 during the Montana Library Association Conference in Bozeman. For details visit mtlib.org.
“Fourth of July Creek” is about Pete Snow, a social worker in western Montana struggling with a lack of resources, his crumbling personal life, and a local culture that reaches for the bottle to solve the problems of life. He encounters a feral and malnourished boy living in the wilderness with his disturbed survivalist father. A relationship develops between Pete, the boy, and his father culminating with an FBI manhunt. The book is a meditation on freedom, community, paranoia, dignity, rugged independence, and neglect in the lives of the most innocent. Smith Henderson’s debut is unflinching and unforgettable, marking the arrival of a major literary talent.
Three honor books were chosen: “Astoria“ by Peter Stark about the trading colony founded by John Jacob Astor at the mouth of the Columbia River a few years after the Lewis and Clark expedition; “Blood Will Out” by Walter Kirn about the relationship between an eccentric New York Rockefeller and the Montanan who delivered a crippled hunting dog to him. The Rockefeller would be unmasked as a serial imposter, a child kidnapper, and a brutal murderer; “The Ploughman” by Kim Zupan about the relationship that develops between the low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department and a jailed man charged with a long series of brutal crimes and murder. The two talk through the bars in the dark of night with the troubled deputy taking counsel from the suspect.
The “Montana Book Award” was founded by The Friends of the Missoula Public Library in 2001, with winners selected by a committee of individuals representing areas throughout Montana. Members of the 2014 Montana Book Award committee included: Dale Alger, Roundup; Sean Anderson, Kalispell; Mareta Brusett, Jordan; Melody Condron, Helena; Bradin Farnworth, Missoula; Desiree Funston, Missoula; Tamara Miller, Bozeman; and Stacy Walenter, Troy.