Introducing Hank Nuwer’s new novel, “Sons of the Dawn: A Basque Odyssey”–ORDER FROM SHALO PRESS
Read pages 230-240 in Victoria Banales’s captivating critique of Sons of the Dawn:
The Star, Basque home away from the range; right, Nevada
Kirkus Reviews: SONS OF THE DAWN: A Basque Odyssey by Hank Nuwer; Shalako Press (324 pp.); $15.95 paperback, $4.99 e-book. ISBN: 978-0989291767. Franklin College professor Nuwer (The Hazing Reader, 2004, etc.) breaks from scholarly publications with this debut Western novel set in the Basque region of Spain and the rugged terrain of Idaho.
In the years leading up to the Spanish-American War, the Spanish military conscripted thousands of men and boys to fight. Having lived a peaceful life with their adopted father near the Basque city of Guernica, teenage brothers Anton and Nicky are reluctant to acknowledge that the conscription threatens their safety and their lives. Having more foresight, their father arranges their passage to America to work with his half brother on his sheep farm. Once there, they are thrown into a new life, first of rigorous training, then of solitude and loneliness as they spend two years tending the flock on the open range. They meet a community of other Basque workers, as well as immigrants of other nationalities working for a better life. Unfortunately, they also meet with prejudice against the Basques, especially by a local cattle farmer bent on gaining as much land as he can—by any means.
Nuwer excels at creating a vivid, atmospheric sense of place, both in Spain and Idaho. His pacing is by no means brisk, but rather than being a detraction, it highlights the introspection and attention to detail throughout the story.
The dialogue has a few awkward moments, including humor that occasionally falls flat, as with Nicky’s response to a ribbing: “That was like humor, only not funny.” Also, phrases such as “the wagons rolled west, ever west, without them” seem a bit implausible coming from a seasoned sheep herder.
However, readers will likely gloss over these issues in favor of Nuwer’s keen eye for detail and historical accuracy. With its focus on teenage characters and specific exploration of bullying and hazing, this book has considerable appeal not only to fans of Westerns but to young adults as well.
Informed, unpretentious and attentive, this Western breathes life into little-known historical events.
The Franklin Online: excerpt. Many Basque immigrants live in western United States but are originally from Basque Country, which is between Spain and France. In 2009, Nuwer traveled out west and to Spain while on sabbatical. He went to the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada and to the Guernica Peace Museum Foundation in Spain. Nuwer used the research from his sabbatical for “Sons of Dawn.” But he first learned about the Basques when he went on treks with the sheepherders for magazine assignments from 1979 through 1981.
Nuvo Newsweekly: excerpt. Franklin College professor Hank Nuwer’s Sons of the Dawn: A Basque Odyssey, has all the dusty bravado and high noon tension of a Wild West shoot-em-up. But it’s more than a genre exercise. Due for January release by Shalako Press, Nuwer’s Western novel tackles weightier topics such as cultural diversity in 1890s Idaho, and the related issues of hazing and bullying (Nuwer is known internationally as an expert on bullying).
Indianapolis Star: excerpt. Franklin College professor Hank Nuwer has built a national reputation and become an outspoken crusader against hazing in all its forms.The associate professor for Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism has written articles and four books about hazing in his long academic career. Long after sundown when he’s not working on serious, scholarly missives, Nuwer’s been writing a literary Western novel inspired by time he spent “trailing” sheep with migrant Basque herders in 1979.
Photo Below: Hank Nuwer stopping by a ghost town in Idaho en route to interview female sheepherder Javoan Brantner and Basque herder Lucien Millox (RIP; he was later murdered, sadly). Mask on face because we stepped out of a nice warm pickup truck into subzero temperature, and I covered my face to protect lungs as I breathed in the cold air.
Hank Nuwer photo above.