Montana Public Radio

Russell Rowland's "Cold Country"

Jul 30, 2020

With familiar mastery, Russell Rowland, the author of In Open Spaces and Fifty-Six Counties, returns to rural Montana to explore a small town torn apart by secrets and suspicions, and how the tenuous bonds of friendship struggle to hold against the differences that would sever us.

Cold Country

To hear the conversation with Russell Rowland about his book "Cold Country," click the link above or subscribe to our podcast.

About the Book:

Montana, 1968: The small town of Paradise Valley is ripped open when popular rancher and notorious bachelor Tom Butcher is found murdered one morning, beaten to death by a baseball bat. Suspicion among the tight-knit community immediately falls on the outsider, Carl Logan, who recently moved in with his family and his troubled son Roger. What Carl doesn’t realize is that there are plenty of people in Paradise Valley who have reason to kill Tom Butcher.

Complications arise when the investigating officers discover that Tom Butcher had a secret―a secret he kept even from Junior Kirby, a lifelong rancher and Butcher’s best friend. As accusations fly and secrets are revealed one after another, the people of Paradise Valley learn how deeply Tom Butcher was embedded in their lives, and that they may not have known him at all.

Russell Rowland

About the Author:

Russell Rowland is a critically-acclaimed author of six books, a literary podcast host, writer and host of a public radio program, and a mentor to fledgling writers. From the written to the spoken word, he is a true voice of The Big Sky Country. A fourth-generation Montanan, Rowland was born in Bozeman in 1957, inheriting the experiential legacies of his father’s blue-collar Wyoming roots and mother’s 100+ year ranch family history. He earned an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University where he finished his first novel.

Rowland’s debut work of fiction, “In Open Spaces,” received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, was reviewed in the New York Times, and reached the San Francisco Chronicle’s bestseller list. His second and third novels, “The Watershed Years” and “High and Inside,” were both named finalists for the High Plains Book Award for fiction. Celebrated author Ivan Doig said of Rowland’s first book, “Russell Rowland has given us a vivid and distinctive piece of homespun to take its proper place in the literary quilt of the West.”

Rowland also co-edited, along with Lynn Stegner, an anthology of essays by writers from the West, called “West of 98.” He co-hosts the monthly podcast series “Breakfast in Montana,” which explores and celebrates the commonalities of contemporary and classic Montana literature through interviews with regional writers.

His narratives honor the full reality of life for Montanans: their struggles, grit, and stoicism, and their connections to family and place. He writes with an honest perspective, faithful to the emotion at the heart of each story, culling cultural hyperbole and stereotypes in favor of plain truth. Award-winning author Laura Pritchett said, “In a voice all his own, Rowland proves to be warm and personable, and yet cutting and real—basically, one couldn’t wish for a better guide to the state of Montana.”

Of his most popular book, non-fiction narrative “Fifty-Six Counties,” Butte author David Abrams wrote, “If you have room for only one book about Montana, it should be this book.” Fifty-Six Counties debuted as a radio program on NPR on July 1st, 2019. The program continues Rowland’s conversations with Montanans begun in the book, exploring the ways in which this state and its people shape one another.

Russell Rowland teaches online writing workshops and works privately with emerging writers. He lives in Billings, Montana.