Academic relations staff member publishes novel
In 1971, a new novel by University Relations staffer Matt McGowan, 13-year-old Bud Harrod is starting school in a new town. He doesn’t know anyone there except the middle-aged couple who took him in after his stepmother abandoned him. Bud balks. He says he wants to stay on the couple’s farm and work.
“My childhood was nothing like Bud’s,” said McGowan, who worked as a science writer and researcher at the university for 16 years. “Although I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm.”
McGowan wrote the book early in the morning, for several months, as his own stepchildren prepared for school.
“I remembered that fear and that anxiety,” he said. “I was always nervous about starting school. Then, as a 50-year-old man, I relived it vicariously when I heard my kids talking in the background, while I ‘wrote. So I put it all in the character of Bud. ”
Set primarily in the Ozarks, the novel is about Bud and his mother-in-law Fanny, who recently suffered trauma, and the Claypools, a family that helps Bud. After abandoning Bud and her deceased husband’s car near the Claypool farm, Fanny hitchhikes to Fort Smith, Arkansas. From there, she heads west and continues running to Southern California, where she believes she must visit the site where her husband was killed.
“Since I read the Grapes of Wrath and a biography of Woody Guthrie, I was obsessed with Midwesterners going to California, ”McGowan said. “My wife and I met their sons and daughters last summer when we drove through the San Joaquin Valley after visiting Yosemite. I’m fascinated by it all, and I get stuck on it. My characters always run away to California. “
Fanny meets interesting people on her way to California and during her stay there. Meanwhile, as she mourns her husband’s death and tries to figure out what to do next, Barry County Sheriff Clifford Villines searches for her. Hailing from Missouri, his pursuit of Fanny is complicated and sometimes comical.
McGowan grew up in southwest Missouri and attended the University of Missouri, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in journalism. Before joining University Relations in 2005, he was a journalist. His news appeared in Adirondack Reviews, Deep South Magazine, Review of the Concho River, Arkansas exam and others. His short story “Sucker Flats”, published in Ancient Mountain, was nominated for a Pushcart award. This is his first novel.
Published by Auxarczen Press, 1971 is available on Amazon.