Best-selling novelist Jackie Collins not only praised Richard Fifield’s debut before she died last September (“edgy and original”), her paperbacks are also the favorite reading material of young protagonist Jake Bailey. He’s a gay teenager in a miniature Montana town, Quinn, that’s run by fierce women and volunteer firefighters – “his tiny universe … foreshortened and filthy.”
He has clothing for every occasion, purchased at the local thrift store: polyester leisure suits, a private-detective outfit, a complete set of motorcycle leathers, a silver snowsuit with red moon boots. And he has 59 enemies, including the entire football team.
He resides in a trailer court with his mom, her boyfriend Bert, “surly and possessive, drunk and useless, and worst of all, fertile,” and their new baby.
Fortunately, he has allies too, including his new neighbor, the wayward Rachel Flood. She’s back in Quinn, freshly sober and trying to make amends to the community and especially her mother, Laverna – proud proprietor of the Dirty Shame. Add Laverna’s best friend and protector Red Mabel, “who fairly resembled a black bear, burly, all haunches,” and sworn enemy Black Mabel, a drug dealer, thief and drunk driver; toss in the members of the Flood Girls softball team, guns, Madonna, and the local evangelical community, and we arrive at a funny, tragic, utterly unique vision of rural America.
“Reading this novel is like unwrapping the wackiest birthday gift you’ve ever received,” writes Spokane author Sharma Shields. And J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, describes Fifield as “a deeply empathetic and wonderfully dark new champion” of small-town America.
Fifield grew up in Troy, earned an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and for the past 20 years has worked as a social worker with adults with intellectual disabilities while volunteering as a creative writing teacher in Missoula.
– Kristi Niemeyer