New book released by author from area


It’s impossible not to picture the coulee area while reading Bruce Holbert’s new book “Whiskey.” It’s impossible because it takes place here.

The novel follows two brothers, Smoker and Andre, as they drink through the drama in their lives in 1991 Electric City. Andre is beginning to go through a divorce from his wife, Claire, and Smoker, wondering where his daughter is, sets off to find her. The story then flashes back to the 1980s, when Andre met Claire, then to the 1950s, when Andre and Smoker’s parents, Peg and Pork, were growing up. The story flashes between the different time periods throughout the book.

We all know characters like these (some of us are characters like these), and we all know the setting.

The book is darkly funny, senselessly violent, and all so human with the characters all being quite flawed, thus making them believable as people. Still, the characters have heart, even if they show it through tough love and cynical jokes.

The author, Bruce Holbert, grew up in the area, and will be at the Grand Coulee Library on May 15 at 6 p.m. to promote “Whiskey,” which was released in March and is available wherever books are sold.

The following is from an interview conducted over email.

Star: I think local readers will want to know, how much are these characters based on real people? How many events are based on true events?

Holbert: My characters often have threads of people I know, but by the time I finish a book, they are threads of so many other things and other people that they are mostly themselves. I tend to write spontaneously, so if I start with a character like, let’s say, my father, once that character responds to what occurs in the story he becomes more and more himself and less and less the thread of my dad that I started with.

Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Star: Are these characters heroes or antiheroes?

Holbert: I’m not certain they are either. Unless you’re writing an epic, stories are usually people trying to solve the problems of living under particular conditions, which include their character and nature. Hero and antihero imply a separateness from ordinary people. I sometimes write about those kind of characters, but in this book, these characters are in most ways ordinary, and in the ways they are not, they often wish they could be.

Star: What kind of influence did the Coulee have on the story?

Holbert: The coulee is a tremendous influence; the geography, the dam, the combination of people and ways they make a living all resonate in how I see the world, not just then, but now. The notion that character and humanity and humility exist in people who aren’t heroic in obvious ways, but who are struggling to make sense of things, often under conditions that aren’t sensible. Someone said to me recently, the coulee used to be strange, now it’s home. I think that’s so. Every small town is interesting and, if you look close enough, strange, especially if you grow up inside it. Also, I’m writing about particular lives from my particular perspective and informed by experiences that are over 20 years old.

Star: What was it like for you being a creative type and writer coming from this area? Was it challenging? Were there teachers or peers encouraging your talent in this area?

Holbert: I think I had teachers and coaches who cared about their students. They went out of their way to engage us, and we were not great students. Ball games and our social lives were front and center. Larry Curtis was the most influential teacher [during] my years there. He taught art and psychology, and demanded we study and take notes as if it were a college class. I probably wouldn’t have survived my first year of college without his class, and I have spoken to many others who feel the same way. Certainly the place was not the hotbed of culture that Seattle might be, but it didn’t have Seattle’s pitfalls, either, so I never felt short-changed.


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