rode was one of two books praised in an Independence Day column by Roger Williams of the Florida Weekly, posted June 27, 2012.

Thomas Fox Averill was interviewed about rode at Johnson County Community College, for the cable program, "It's Our Community." Watch at YouTube.

rode was reviewed in Kansas History, A Journal of the Central Plains, Volume 35, Number 1, Spring 2012, p. 63, by Douglas S. Harvey, visiting assistant professor of history, Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. See review.

rode is a Spur Finalist as named by the Western Writers Association. I will be in Albuquerque for a luncheon and panel as part of the WWA Convention. For a link to Spur winners and finalists, go to WWA.

rode was recently named Outstanding Western Novel of 2011 as part of the Western Heritage Awards given each year in Oklahoma City, home of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. This award has been won in the past by James Michener, Thomas Berger, Larry McMurtry, A.B. Guthrie, Barbara Kingsvolver and Cormac McCarthy. To see a complete list of past winners, go to this page and select "Literary" and "Western Novel."

Texas Books in Review called rode a "nail-biting page turner chock-full of tension and vivid description." See full review.

The Wichita Eagle put rode on their Great Gift Books for Kansans list, December 17, 2011.

rode made it on the "Complete" list of Southwest Books of the Year, compiled by the Pima (Arizona) County Public Library.

Washburn Review article by Sam Sayler, Wednesday, October 19, 2011, A8. Follow this link.

Library Journal gave rode a starred review on September 2. Follow this link.

Kansas Alumni, Issue 5, 2011, p. 75, published a review article on rode.

The Wichita Eagle's Lisa McClendon reviewed rode on September 11, 2011. Follow this link.

Article on rode from CJonline, later printed in the paper. Follow this link.

Barnes & Noble, August 27
Thomas Fox Averill singing "Tennessee Stud," the song that inspired rode.


Review of rode from the Albuquerque Journal. Link is broken, so here's the text:

A man and his horse, two against the frontier

The American West in 1825 still began at the Mississippi River. Not long before, the Louisiana Purchase had annexed new territories that stretched the young country far across the plains and over the Rockies to the Pacific. Thomas Fox Averill’s historical novel, “rode,” is set in the southern tier of those vast virgin lands. It is an odyssey that takes its meditative young hero, Robert Johnson, and his equine companion, the Stud, far from their Tennessee home.

Averill took inspiration from “The Tennessee Stud,” a 1958 hit ballad by Jimmy Driftwood. Recorded by Johnny Cash and Doc Watson, it recounts the story of a young man and a horse without peer, for, as the song’s refrain emphasizes, “He had the nerve and he had the blood/ There never was a horse like the Tennessee stud.”

The lyrics provide an outline of the tale, but Averill skillfully fleshes out the song’s characters and plot, creating an exciting episodic narrative of Robert’s adventures with the Stud.

“rode: a novel” by Thomas Fox Averill
UNM Press, $24.95, 212 pp.

Robert, 22, is planning a life for himself and 16-year-old Jo Benson, the comely but feisty girl he intends to marry. On a plot of land given to him by his father, Robert has already built a cabin and dreams of raising horses and children. But Jo’s father and brothers will have nothing of it, framing Robert for a murder he didn’t commit. He’s forced to run for his life with the Stud, and fleeing the long arm of the law, they head west, across the Mississippi into Arkansas, on through Texas and into Mexico.

In this no-man’s-land, a country where “half the men are horsemen and the other half are horse thieves,” they encounter a colorful assortment of pioneers, breeders and gamblers, scoundrels and cutthroats, warring Indians, Spanish mission padres and vaqueros.

When not looking over his shoulder for villains in hot pursuit, Robert pines for Jo, mentally composing letters he’s too illiterate to write, begging for the future he wanted, yet riding further away from it each day.

Robert and the Stud make it to Monterrey, where he decides he must go back to Tennessee and Jo despite hardships and dangers as real as any he encountered running away. Even those familiar with Driftwood’s song and how it all turns out won’t be disappointed; Averill’s plot is still full of surprises and nonstop action.

A masterful storyteller, Averill retains in his prose and dialogue a precision of language honoring the tone and conventions of 19th-century language while conveying both the lyric majesty and terse terrors of an unspoiled, untamed land.

Averill also traveled Robert’s route, visiting national parks, racetracks, museums and a living history farm. Such experiences and others have surely given him a sense of visceral immediacy he uses so well to put the reader in the heart – and guts – of this powerful book.

Robert Woltman is an Albuquerque poet and writer.


Review of rode on KMUW, Public Radio in Wichita, by Sarah Bagby, of Watermark Books.
Listen here.


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