Thursday, December 15, 2016

Love Give Us One Death by Jeff P Jones: Author Interview + Giveaway

  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
Scroll down for Giveaway!
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, ambiance 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

Why write a novel about Bonnie and Clyde? In other words, why approach their story through the guise of fiction?
One thing that appealed to me about the Bonnie and Clyde story was that it comes pre-structured. It has a beginning, middle, and dramatic ending. Also, they were young, so it wasn’t a story with decades in the middle. They had a brief run, and over it all loomed that violent ending. It’s hard to imagine a starker end-point toward which to aim. And so part of it is my writing process, my need for constraints within which to work.
Another thing was that, after ten years of writing short stories, I wanted to try a novel. I spent a year on a failed novel about the first Gulf War, and I was casting around for something I felt connected to. Though I didn’t consciously think about it at the time, Bonnie and Clyde come from the world of my ancestors, poor southerners whose own ancestors came to America in the last great migratory wave from Europe. They became known as “back settlers” because the white settlers who got here first claimed all the good coastal land and pushed new arrivals into the wilderness, back toward the undesirable frontier. I still carry a lot of genetic disdain for authority, for those who live up in the city on the hill where all the power resides. My people come from the hills and the hollows, and one of their strongest bonds is over a mistrust of those in power. It’s this same class-based fealty that kept Bonnie and Clyde invisible for so long, that caused farmers and rural folks to hide them from the authorities.
I think, too, as much as I feel close to Bonnie and Clyde and want to understand and empathize with them, of course I don’t condone their violence—the killings of law officers, I hope, appalls anyone who reads their story. But there’s a difference between condoning and trying to understand, and one thing that continues to interest me about this story is how many people see something of themselves in the two lovers. Jay-Z and Beyoncé, to name two, and all the people who loved their “Bonnie and Clyde” song. This commitment to love another person despite the world collapsing around you—that bond seemed worth exploring, and the fact that it was grounded in a real relationship and a real time made it all the more appealing. I could try to capture some of that emotional history.

You mention class fealty, also anti-police violence. What about race? How does it feature in the novel?
The irony of the book’s timing isn’t lost on me. When the culture’s finally talking about the way driving-while-black is treated as a crime in many parts of the country, here’s a book about the most famous white couple on the run from the law. Bonnie and Clyde were true criminals—and yet we hold them in such glamorized mythical sympathetic regard. Why are we still talking about the injustice of their 1934 murder when we should be talking about Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams’s 2012 murder in Cleveland? Two people riding in a car gunned down by six officers who fired a collective 137 bullets. The parallels are striking, but the differences are even more striking. For one, Russell and Williams were black. This was 2012, not 1934. And the pair were unarmed and had committed no crime. Yet that killing fades from view pretty quickly.
In a version of the book that I jettisoned, I tried to engage the links between the ambush of Bonnie and Clyde and that of Williams and Russell. But it didn’t work. I couldn’t step out of my own skin color. Here was a white guy co-opting the tragic deaths of two innocent African Americans to exemplify the suffering of his white protagonists who were actually criminals. The only solution, of course, was to cut all the contemporary stuff out and just trust that links will be made by readers.
As for Bonnie and Clyde, they were racist by virtue of their circumstances even if they weren’t mean-spirited racists. I mean, I have family members who’ll say something racist, and when I call them on it, they’ll say guilelessly, “Well, of course, I don’t mean anything ugly by it.” In other words, they don’t recognize their own racism and how their privilege blinds them in certain ways. But I had to stay true to who the people in the novel were. I reflect the inherent racism of the time in the way both Cumie (Clyde’s mother), Clyde, and Bonnie nonchalantly use racial slurs at different points. It doesn’t even cause a blip in the moment, but I hope it shocks the modern reader. As a writer of historical fiction, you must guard against whitewashing history. People have to be presented for how they were. Nothing should be cleaned up.
That said, I did try to remain alert to positive connections. It’s subtle, but Clyde and Bonnie stay with a “negro” family one night, according to Hamer’s notes, and toward the end, Clyde is said to have driven Buddy Goldston into town when he had a flat tire, and to have handed Goldston a peanut patty he bought for him. “Nicest anyone in Gibsland’s ever been to me,” Goldston, who’s black, said in an interview years later. The interview’s available on Youtube.
So, yes, race is there, but I hope subtly. Emma Parker says she wasn’t able to bring Bonnie’s body home because of the crowds in her street “black with people.” This isn’t a reference to night but to her living in a predominantly black neighborhood in south Dallas. And in the opening chapter when Clyde wanders downtown, he sees a bus with “the coloreds in back”—a reflection of Jim Crow but also how racism was embedded in the everyday language.

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.
5 Winners! One winner  wins poster & signed copy; Four winners win signed copies!
December 13 - December 22, 2016

Guest Post 1
Excerpt 1
Author Interview 1
Excerpt 2
Author Interview 2
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