Shotgun Lovesongs comes out today!
It’s a gritty, big-hearted novel about four childhood friends–a farmer, a financial trader, a rodeo rider, and a rock star–who reconvene in the small Wisconsin town where they grew up. Marriages are broken. Gunshots are fired. The tree of liberty is refreshed with the blood of Midwestern patriots and cheap beer.
We asked the author to share his thoughts on publication day.
Nickolas Butler: I would like to tell you that the definitive film of my youth was something heady and brutal, a brooding American cult classic like Reservoir Dogs or Miller’s Crossing. And, in truth, I’ve seen both of those films probably dozens of times, though most between my 15th and 21st year; not so much in the last decade or so. But the quintessential movie of my childhood and early teens might just be Wayne’s World, that goofball pure American Midwestern comic classic starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. And if you’ve seen Wayne’s World, you might imagine the joy I felt when I discovered I would be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the publication date of my first novel, Shotgun Lovesongs. If you’ve forgotten the connection between Wayne’s World and Wisconsin’s most populous city, allow Alice Cooper to refresh your memory:
Milwaukee is one of my favorite American cities. It is a city with true grit, with dirt beneath its fingernails and the smell of beer in the air. This is a city whose best days are either a long ways back in the rear-view mirror, or still somewhere out there waiting to be realized. The cityscape is modest for a metropolis ranked 30th in the nation in terms of population. The sports teams are abysmal, but the fans are reverent. In wintertime, Milwaukee is like most Rust Belt cities: hideous. The snowbanks go to dirty gray, the lake is just a frozen plane of ice, the winds that cut between the “skyscrapers” are evil and sharp.
In spring, summer, and fall, Milwaukee is a hidden jewel on the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan. Joggers go bouncing down lakeside paths, sailboats test the winds beyond the city’s harbor, Miller Park opens its spaceship portal to the sky and hawks wheel over the outfield. Boats cruise the river from brew-pub to brew-pub, lollygaggers sit outside the Pumphouse Alterra and people-watch, and at Sanford, you can eat a meal that would be lauded in any metropolis the world over. Which is to say nothing of the first-rate bookstore where I’ll be reading at – Boswell Books – a bastion of indie bookselling passion and smarts.
I’ll leave you with this memory of Milwaukee: one fine bright winter afternoon, my wife and I strolled through the Milwaukee Art Museum’s new Santiago Calatrava addition, which, if you’ve never seen it, is ethereally beautiful; architecture that seems to take flight, to sail, to dance with light and shadow. And there, having their wedding photos taken, were two very happy but quite unattractive looking newlyweds, in cowboy boots (both of them) and he wearing an unfortunate bolo tie. Both of their outfits far too snug for comfort.
In Milwaukee, no one looked at them askance. No one poked fun at them (until me, now, perhaps). That is Milwaukee’s wonderful dichotomy: beauty and rust, Old World elegance and New World sloppiness.
– Brian Hurley