Samuel Ligon is the author of two other novels — Among the Dead and Dreaming and Safe in Heaven Dead — and two collections of stories, Wonderland and Drift and Swerve. He’s artistic director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference and teaches at Eastern Washington University in Spokane. In 2012, Ligon and his wife, Kate Lebo, started Pie & Whiskey — raucous literary events featuring pie, whiskey and readings about those eponymous things — and together they edited a 2017 collection of works from readings in Spokane and Missoula, called Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze.
A fraudulent historian who makes his living conning the survivors of mass shootings returns home to save the young daughter of the woman he loves, taking her with him on his roadshow across the worn-out heart of America, staying one step ahead of what’s after them.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS
Miller Cane: A fraudulent historian, who’s lately been making his living conning and comforting the survivors of mass shootings.
Carleen Callahan: The eight-year old doll-making daughter of Lizzie James and Connor Callahan. Has no idea she’s recently become an heiress or that her mother has shot her father. Has no idea that her father is after her, or what her father looks like. On the road with Miller Cane.
Lizzie James: An artisan jewelry maker, and a baker at the Mount Vernon co-op, currently in Skagit County jail for shooting her estranged husband, Connor. Has asked Miller to hide Carleen.
Connor Callahan: Son and grandson and great grandson of money, which somehow skipped him, going to his daughter instead, who he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.
Jimmy Heffner: A survivor of the Cumberland Massacre, whose child died there. Heffner wants his son and his money back.
George Sampson: Miller’s editor, who works for a textbook publisher in Texas. The Hero/Villain project is his idea.
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Buckle up, gentle reader, Sam Ligon is about to take you on an outrageous road trip across American history and hysteria. It will be tempting to see your fictional guide on this serialized journey, the massacre-counselor and unhinged textbook author Miller Cane, as an unreliable narrator, but it’s the American myth that is unreliable in Sam Ligon’s razor-sharp satire. For the next 12 months, hold tight as Miller Cane barrels across the West telling its alternate history while trying to protect his young charge Carleen at a moment in time when it feels like two hundred years of violence, hypocrisy, and cultural insanity are bubbling up in the present moment. Oh, and there’s a chase. And a cat. And it’s hilarious.
— Jess Walter, author of the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins
Miller Cane is a jolt of straight-up, adrenalized American greed and violence. Sam Ligon’s prose is an elemental force — fierce and funny, profane and sacred — and his vision of the country’s past and present is as engrossing as it is unsparing. Read this and have a better year.
— Shawn Vestal, author of Godforsaken Idaho
Sam Ligon is a startlingly powerful writer. How can a post-massacre feel so eerily alive on every page? Hero Villains abound. And if you think there’s nothing fresh to say about the tenacity-slash-fragility of human bonds, read Miller Cane. Only in the best-told tales, like this one, may we measure and forgive one another, and ourselves.
— Nance Van Winckel, author of Our Foreigner
Any story that Sam Ligon writes is cause for celebration, and now we have the wicked anticipation of what comes next. Mark your calendars and settle in for a ride that is always wild, full of tension, sharply imagined, empathetically told, funny as hell, and absolutely fearless.
— Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness, a Pulitzer finalist
Spokane readers, rejoice! You know Spokane is a literary town when its beloved weekly, The Inlander, serializes a novel. How cool that the Inlander joins such a rich literary tradition that brought fame to Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins. Kudos to the Inlander and to Sam Ligon, one of our most exciting writers, for re-introducing the serialized novel to the Inland Northwest.
— Sharma Shields, author of The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac
Ligon is truly an original; you will read no other writer who possesses Sam’s uniquely skewed sensibility, his offbeat humor, or his menacing playfulness. Sam’s fiction never fails to delight.
— Jonathan Evison, author of the New York Times bestseller West of Here
Every time I see Sam Ligon, he asks me, “What’s happening?,” which continues to throw me, as what I want to say is “Fine,” but that does not make sense, and I really can’t explain everything that is happening in such a short time. Reading the first three chapters of Sam’s new novel Miller Cane: A True and Exact History is kind of like having a social interaction with Sam: you have to up your game. Be witty and quick. Direct and ironic. And no matter what you’re talking about, you’re also talking about America. Like Miller Cane, who at one point turned my whole childhood on its head when he says, “Plenty of things didn’t work out on the prairie or on the banks of Plum Creek.”
— Laura Read, former Spokane poet laureate and author of the book Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral
Sam Ligon’s writing is whip-smart and witty and wildly entertaining. He seamlessly layers absurdity with difficult truth in a way that makes readers laugh, listen, and think. Sam’s voice is original and unflinching and utterly unique.
— Kris Dinnison, author of You and Me and Him
People clamored on the docks of New York harbor, awaiting the ship that delivered the next chapter of Charles Dickens’ serialized novels. Such is my fevered anticipation for Sam Ligon’s Miller Cane!
— Daniel Orozco, professor and author of Orientation and Other Stories
In Miller Cane, we find complicated characters trying to get by in a world of massacres, smoky haze, and dysfunctional relationships. Darkly comical and soberingly grim Miller Cane is a realistic 21st-century American Everyman: Doing his best to hold it all together, even if he’s had to con some people to get by.
— Thom Caraway, Spokane’s first poet laureate
Sam Ligon has long been one of my favorite writers and this new one, Miller Cane: A True and Exact History, is his best yet. It’s as uproariously funny as it is heartbreaking and razor sharp pointed as it is sprawling. This novel is a blow-torch aimed right into the depraved and withering heart of America.
— Robert Lopez, author of Part of the World
Sam Ligon is a genius. Why doesn’t everyone write like Sam Ligon? It pisses me off!!!
— Chelsea Martin, author of Caca Dolce
I saw Sam read an excerpt from Miller Cane at our first Lit Crawl in the Perry Neighborhood, hollering sans microphone above the traffic passing by the patio/stage. I was blown away with the rest of the audience by a taste of this beautiful, ugly, and weird Pacific Northwest thrill ride. I can’t wait to follow Miller Cane for the next year to see how fast his clunky motorhome can travel, and just where it will go.
— Mark Anderson, Spokane’s poet laureate
The first time I met Sam Ligon, he had a mullet and a loud voice. The mullet is gone, but he still has a loud voice. The Hero/Villain riffs in this story loudly interrogate our moment, ask us what is noble and what is savage, what is honorable and what is disgraced. This seems to be a novel that gives us a tale of flawed characters back dropped by a massively flawed historical moment (ain’t that always the case) and asks us to assay and to fill-in-the-blanks and to true and false our way to some sense of understanding who/what/when/if America is/was/should be. I dig it. I just wish Sam Ligon had kept the mullet. (Activity: find an old picture of Sam Ligon with a mullet. Extra Credit if you also had a mullet. Extra, extra credit if you had a mullet and you can name more than one of the Native Americans who were tricked and slaughtered as part of the settlement of our city. If you can’t cite your sources, then do what ’muricans always do and make shit up.)
— Tod Marshall, former Washington state poet laureate
THE PARTNERSHIP WITH THE INLANDER
Miller Cane is being published for the first time in the pages of the Inlander, the award-winning weekly paper covering the Inland Northwest. The first two parts appeared in the Sept. 13, 2018, issue; going forward, short installments will appear every week until the book is finished, sometime in late 2019.