RIVER, SING OUT
Jonah Hargrove is celebrating his thirteenth birthday by avoiding his abusive father, when a girl named River stumbles into his yard, injured and alone. The teenager has stolen thousands of dollars’ worth of meth from her murderous, drug-dealing boyfriend, but lost it somewhere in the Neches River bottoms during her escape. Jonah agrees to help her find and sell the drugs so she can flee East Texas.
Chasing after them is John Curtis, a local drug kingpin and dog fighter, as well as River’s boyfriend, the dangerous Dakota Cade.
Each person is keeping secrets from the others—deadly secrets that will be exposed in violent fashion as all are forced to come to terms with their choices, their circumstances, and their own definition of God.
With a colorful cast of supporting characters and an unflinching violence juxtaposed against lyrical prose, River, Sing Out dives deep into the sinister world of the East Texas river bottoms, where oppressive poverty is pitted against the need to believe in something greater than the self.
PRAISE FOR RIVER, SING OUT
”With echoes of Jim Harrison, Cormac McCarthy
(and perhaps a smidge of Flannery O’Connor), River, Sing Out is
a beautiful, brutal meditation on survival and love in the face of nearly unspeakable
violence and depravity in an East Texas community ravaged by the meth trade.
Taut, lyrical, and precise, the prose soars in this important new novel by
James Wade.” —Elizabeth Wetmore, New York Times bestselling
author of Valentine
”If you read one novel this year, make it this one. James Wade’s River, Sing Out, is an instant classic filled with characters that will break your heart, lyrical prose as haunted as the river it evokes, and a Southern Noir undertow that wholly sucks you in and keeps you turning the pages until it’s searing, masterful conclusion.” —May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives
”Wade, whose striking debut, All Things Left Wild (2020), traveled back a century in Texas history, uses an unlikely friendship to explore an equally wild present-day landscape…A haunting fable of an impossible relationship fueled by elemental need and despair.” —Kirkus Reviews
Interview with James Wade
How has your formal education impacted your writing?
When I started trying to break into the fiction world, I felt inadequate in a number of ways, but one of the biggest was my lack of an MFA. Everyone I knew or met or talked to was always asking where I’d gone to grad school. There was a time (and sometimes I still feel this way) where I thought every single writer in Texas had gotten an MFA at Texas State or UT. I had an agent at a conference tell me that I would only be taken seriously if I went back to school.
But then I was published a few times in literary magazines, and I won a couple of contests, and all of a sudden not having an MFA became like a point of pride– even a little bit of a chip on my shoulder that kept me working hard.
I’m an incredibly privileged person (far too privileged to complain as much as I do), and there are very few instances where I can claim the role of underdog, but the absence of a formal writing education gives me a little bit of that extra motivation.
Did you experience rejection when submitting this manuscript for publication?
I didn’t, but only because I had signed a three-book deal with my publisher (River, Sing Out being the second of the three books). However, I did receive several rejections for my first novel from agents I queried. When I finished All Things Left Wild, my wife and I sat down, and each made a list of ten agents we thought would be right for the book. My agent, Mark Gottlieb at Trident Media, was the top name on both of our lists. So I sent a query to Mark and about a dozen other folks. Mark reached out the same day asking for more, and he read the manuscript over a weekend and signed me the following Monday. I emailed the other agents and basically told them not to waste their time (which to an agent is like gold). Still, a few of them got back to me with rejection emails. Some were templates, others more personal (and brutal), and I couldn’t help but wonder how different that would have felt if I hadn’t already found Mark. In fact, Mark had secured a great deal with Blackstone Publishing before most of the agents had even replied. But I could see how devastating that might have been if I were receiving rejections up front, so I always tell new writers not to get too caught up on how long something is or isn’t taking. There is so much luck and timing involved, but at the end of the day you only need one ‘yes’ to be a published author.
What do you like to read in your free time?
My daughter just turned one, so free time seems like a hilarious and cruel concept. But in that great yesterday, when the house was quiet and my wife and I were free to lounge about at our leisure, I read as much as I could. First and foremost, everything Cormac McCarthy has written (novels, screenplays, essays, etc.). I also enjoy the novels of William Gay, Kent Haruf, and William Faulkner, as well as the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. Much of my reading time is devoted to religious and moral philosophy, political science, and histories, and more recently I’ve been fascinated with geology (Texas geology in particular). When I open a book, I’m looking to learn– learn about lyrical prose from masters of fiction, or learn about mercury mining in West Texas, or cattle ranching on the high plains, or how the Caddo Indians in East Texas believed the world was created.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Of course. It’s the one subject no author should ever write about: Mathematics.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I think the appropriate answer is something like, “be a good father and husband,” or, “find peace and happiness,” or even, “write a NYT bestseller and win a Pulitzer.” But the only real goal, real desire, that I have is to write a novel that I’m happy with. Unfortunately, as is the nature of writing, that is almost guaranteed to never happen. So, here’s to a life of frustration.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
It has been a wonderfully strange privilege.