'The Road Might Be His Best Work, But My Favorite is No Country for Old Men.'

Editor’s Note: This is the twenty-third in a series of interviews and story excerpts spotlighting some of the most innovative fiction writers at the recently-launched new media publishing platform Liberty Island. The first 22 can be read in this collection here and an index of 8 newly-released stories can be found here. Please check out this interview Sarah Hoyt conducted with CEO Adam Bellow here to learn more: “It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.” Also see COO David S. Bernstein’s recent essay here in which he defines Liberty Island as, “an imaginative playground where brilliant and creative people can test their ideas without being harassed or threatened by the new breed of ‘community activists’ who police thought and speech in the media.” 

Most importantly, support Liberty Island’s crowd-funding efforts here where you can pre-order the upcoming novels and learn about other incentives.


1. Who are some of your favorite writers, books, movies, and intellectual influences?

I’m a terrible fiction reader. Been that way since I can remember reading anything more advanced than Hop on Pop. The first book I ever read cover-to-cover (without being forced to by a teacher) was The Ox Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark. I think I was 10 or so then, and I struggled to read anything larger than a novella until I discovered Cormac McCarthy’s work. The Road might be his best work, but my favorite is No Country for Old Men. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, my favorite movie is No Country for Old Men. I tend to love everything the Coens make, however. I’m also a fan of Hemingway, and my favorite Hemingway work is his first, The Sun Also Rises.

As for intellectual influences? That whole crew of modernist writers who hung out in Europe in the early 20th Century came up with some wonderfully pretentious and snobbish ideas that provide me with an objective while writing. Hemingway, Pound, and Joyce, namely. I don’t look to them for political advice, but their explorations of syllabic rhythms and imagism have had profound impacts on my writing goals.

2. How do you describe yourself ideologically?

If I had to check a box, I’d go with “Classically Liberal.” In that sense and that sense alone I am currently “conservative.” I value the rights of the individual with highest regard. Without free individuals you cannot have a free society. And, to me, freedom is as simple as: “My freedom ends where yours begins, and your freedom ends where mine begins.” None of this “freedom from; or freedom to” dialectical nonsense. I generally use another word for “nonsense” there, but I’m trying to be good. Anyway, through individual sovereignty and mutualism we shall succeed. That’s the idealist side, anyway.

3. Which thinkers/commentators have influenced you?

Commentators? Like John Madden? Personally, I think the Mike Tirico / Jon Gruden duo is fantastic on Monday Night Football. Absolutely wonderful. Other “commentators” – especially political pundits – get on my nerves.

Thinkers? Well, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson are two that greatly influenced my political views. Eric Hoffer, with his book, The True Believer, has had a profound impact on my views of society, and Karl Popper is continuing to wreak havoc in my mind as I work through his two-volume epic, The Open Society and its Enemies. Popper’s philosophical contributions to science are excellent. There are also countless others who are not public personas. Well, I can count them, but I don’t know if they’d appreciate the name-dropping.

4. What are your writing goals?

To be better than my heroes. I don’t want to sell a million formulaic books with the same bones and different skin. If I sell a million books one day, that would be cool and all, but I’d feel unfulfilled if there wasn’t at least one amongst the lot that stood out as something beautiful and moving. I know how stupid it sounds, but it’s genuine. I want to write something that’s experiential – something that leaves imprints and images in the minds of readers – something that, after they put the book down and walk away, reverberates through their thoughts as if what they had just read was real. Those modernist snobs talked a little about a fifth dimension. No one really knows what that is. To me, it’s leaving an imprint on a reader that forms as a lasting memory and feels as real as something that had actually happened to them in reality in a really real way that really happened… but didn’t.

5. Where can people find/follow you online?

My books are on Amazon, and I keep a little presence (mostly poetry or short stories) on the web with my blog at

I also have an author page on facebook:

6. What’s your craziest hobby/pastime/interest?

I like a lot of things, and not many of them are very “crazy.” I like random acts of kindness. Cliché, sure, but it only seems that way because I am omitting the nuance. I’ll put it this way, I like to observe my environment – sit back and watch people be. Watch them do. And there are times in life where others are in need of help – these are the “no brainers.” How often do we keep driving past the folks in the car on the side of the road? It’s not always easy to tell whether they need help or not. No, I don’t always stop either. That’s an example. Other times, random acts of kindness evince themselves after observing people in otherwise normal situations. A good group of youngsters working at the local Subway restaurant. They get along, are happy in their current time and space. Maybe a random act of kindness is as simple as dropping a $20 bill in the tip jar. Split three or four ways it barely buys them a gallon of gasoline, but how often does anyone tip those kids, and let alone to the tune of 20 bucks. Little things like that. And I’ve got a soft spot for wildlife in the road: turtles and stray dogs especially, and there was even one time when a Brown Thrasher had survived hitting a car. That little guy got a ride to the local veterinary hospital. They probably put him down, but… ya know.

Yes, I am that boring.

If I could live on the beach I would. Literally on the sand like that. Exposed. But eventually I think the wife and kids would complain about not having anywhere to put their shoes or whatever, so that wouldn’t work.

But I’d do it if I could.

An Excerpt from “Coyote Skull” at Liberty Island:

The tree trunks made black lines from where they broke the white snow and rose until the frozen needles met in one dark mass. High above, the moon held bright and full. The treetops, sealed in ice, glinted bluish white. A wind came then, carrying a distant yelp that spread and sank away in the renewed quiet.

The first shadow broke the silence, sprinting on four blurred legs and wheezing smoky breath with each push. Plumes of white followed as it sprinted past. The others pursued, their silhouetted muzzles catching the hanging plumes of white in the air. Shadows chasing shadows in the harlequin calm.

The pursued grew shorter strokes with longer wheezes. He turned at a gentle rise in the tree line and made for the stream on the other side. The pursuers gained ground with each lunge. They hacked the air with white teeth and crunched the snow in rhythm.

The stream gurgled in hidden seams between ice and rocks now covered in a blanket of exposed white. The moon held high above. When the shadow reached the stream its legs gave out and the head turned as the hips sank down. He pushed the back end up with another wheeze. The pursuers slowed and split apart, still hacking smoke as they surrounded the first.


They came at him separately. One to distract. Another to attack from behind. Again and again. He spun in the snow and snapped at them each time, and each time he was too late. He began to spin faster, snapping where there was nothing but empty dark. Chasing his own plumes of snow.

They backed him across the stream to the edge of the plain with snarls and flashing teeth. But when he broke off in a hobbled sprint they left him, offering only a momentary trot in pursuit before halting. Long faces hacking the air. A shadow alone across a smooth plain of white. The others lingered a while at the edge of the open land, pacing, sniffing, and marking the line.


Old Mr. Hall stood in his old buckskin coat with one arm hooked on the edge of his wagon and the other at his waist, holding his once-white Stetson, and stared down the snow-muddied road in the center of town. The Habersham boys stomped down the steps and hoisted the last two bags of feed up and over the edge. The heavy bags thumped into the small wooden wagon and bounced it out from under the old man’s arm. He shrank away from it and gave it a surprised look.

“You all right, Mister Hall?” asked Fred.

“Bad as ever,” the old man said with a wink.

“Well, that’s the last one,” Jack said, wiping his hands.

“I do appreciate it,” Hall said. He reached out and shook the boys’ hands. They said “Yessir” and then went back up the steps and inside. Their father stood on the porch and shook in the cold.

“Well, anyhow,” he said, “I still wish you would change your mind.”

Hall rolled his bony shoulders forward underneath the thick buckskin coat as he nodded his head. Then he looked down and patted his thigh with the hat.

Habersham smiled. “I know, I know–but…” He watched Hall and waited for him to say it.

“But I been here long before anybody else come around and whatnot.”

Habersham shivered and nodded and went on smiling. Then he took a deep breath and said, “Now I won’t impugn a man on account of his stubbornness lest I become the stubborn one myself…”

“But,” the old man said.

“But I’ll let it lie so long as I know you know you’re welcome to our empty bed upstairs.”

“Well I know it and appreciate it all the same.”

“All this with them Sioux and the Federals now. Don’t know how you can catch a wink out there, all alone like you are.”

“I get by.” Hall gave him a smile and topped his gray head with the dirty Stetson.

Habersham hugged himself and came down a step. “What I hear is that war parties are moving all over, and they don’t rightly take the time to ask if you’re a good white man or a bad one. Starting to believe all the stories about savages now. And maybe we brought it out of ’em. I can’t say. Sometimes I wish I’d never come this far.”

Savages, he said. The old man was staring down the road.

“Been a long time,” Hall growled to himself, remembering.

He had peered through the opened window facing the creek. There along the bank were over thirty of them, painted up and walking their horses and casting long shadows in the fading sunlight. They let the horses stop and drink here and there as they mingled in the copse. One of them stayed on his horse holding a rifle across his lap. He watched the cabin. The whole party came closer, passing behind him.

Hall ducked down and eyed the Spencer rifle on the opposite wall. After about a minute of sitting there on the floor the old man stood and removed his hat. “No, they don’t want a fight,” he mumbled to himself. He dropped the hat on the bed and went to the door.

The old man opened the door and took one step out onto the porch, showing the palms of his hands. The middle of the pack walked directly in front of the cabin now, moving along the creek while the horses drank. All of them turned and stopped when he stepped out, and there they stood and stared. Then the one on his horse came by, closer than the rest, and gave the old man a long glare. They kept eye contact while the old white man walked forward to the porch steps and lowered himself down to a sit.

Hall turned his shoulders and swept one hand across his body and toward the door. “You hungry?” he asked in English.

The rider shook his head.

“Been a long time.”

The rider gave a nod. He looked away at the rest and watched them pass for a minute. A breeze came through the valley and rustled the leaves and needles on the trees that lined the creek.

“Winter’s about on us,” Hall said.

The rider looked at him and then down at the ground. Then he pointed his rifle at the ground beside him. “S’unkmanitu,” he said before he lifted his hands and looked up. “Iktomi.” Hall shook his head. He was still sitting there on the step long after they were gone

“Mr. Hall?” Habersham was saying.

“Oh?” he replied, shaking his head and waving a hand. “I was just thinking.”

“You all right?”

“Oh,” Hall started to say. Then he stopped himself, smiled and put his hand out. “Well, I do appreciate it.”

“And I appreciate your business.”

Hall pulled himself up to the seat and gathered the reins. The thick brown horse with graying eyebrows snorted and worked its jaw. “Oh hush,” Hall said. Then he gave Habersham a look and said, “Savages or not, they’ve never done me wrong. And I probably gave them plenty to hate me for over the years. But they don’t.”

“I know. I didn’t mean to offend–”

The old man waved a hand and shook his head.

Habersham nodded. “But it ain’t how it was before. Won’t ever be the same now.”

Hall gave a quick nod and looked down the muddy road. “Well, I better get back then.” He gave the reins a snap and said, “Come on, Old Brute!” and then rode off through the rutted, muddy street between the small collection of wooden buildings on his way out over the plain and eventually back to the cabin by the creek.

Continue reading at Liberty Island