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Michael Bigham photo

Raised in the mill town of Prineville in Central Oregon beneath blue skies and rimrocks, Michael Bigham attended the University of Oregon and during his collegiate summers, fought range fires on the Oregon high desert for the Bureau of Land Management. He worked as a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Michael lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter. Harkness is his first novel.

Would you call yourself a born writer? 

I’d call myself a born reader. I’ve always had a yen for books and have been known to read just about anywhere. I carry a book of short stories in the back of my car just in case I have time to kill. Since I read so much, I think that fired up my yen to write.

What was your inspiration for Harkness?

Nothing too original, I fear. Harkness is the name of my central character. Although it’s a mystery, the book is about Matthew Harkness’ perilous journey through life, how he reacts to murder in his county and tragedy in his own life.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

In Harkness, I take a shot at a couple of serious themes: discrimination because of sexual preference and race in rural America. In the early 50s, many small towns from Ohio westward to the Pacific coast and down into the southeast had ‘sundown’ laws. These laws stated that no person of color could reside within a town’s city limits from sundown to sunrise. I wondered what would happen if a black man stumbled into one of these towns just after the murder of a young white girl. Also, I wondered about how two gay men, lovers and pillars of the community, would live their lives within such a straight-laced community. Both men are married, but have to hide their sexuality. Gays and lesbians weren’t accepted back then.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? Harkness cover

Longer than it should have, several years. I spent a lot of time spinning my wheels trying the traditional route of finding an agent and mainstream publisher. Fortunately, the publishing industry is changing and writers are able to self-publish or work with small boutique publishers to get their books out.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Discipline comes and goes for me. Right now, I’m working hard on the next book in this series, Thunderhead: A High Desert Mystery, and writing on a regular basis. I usually head off to a coffee shop in the late morning or early afternoon and try to work on my manuscript for a couple of hours. I don’t have a set goal for the number of words per day, because some days I’ll spend revising and rewriting a scene that I’ve worked on previously.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Just keeping engaged. I have an 11-year-old daughter and I’m a member of the City of Portland’s Citizen Review Board, which is the community watchdog for Portland Police. Sometimes life can sap your creative energy.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being creative, thinking about plotting and characters, pushing my mind in new directions. I also find it important to connect with other writers. Writing is a lonely art and we need to connect and get feedback on our efforts.

Where can we find you on the web?

My website is michaelbigham.com and I have a twitter address: @wassir

Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate it.

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Harkness cover

In this thrilling debut novel, by Michael Bigham, Sheriff Matt Harkness faces a perilous challenge. He isn’t your typical Western sheriff. Cowboy boots make his arches ache, he’s phobic of horses, he drives an old battered pickup and his faithful companion is a wiener dog named Addison. Set on the Oregon High Desert in 1952, life in the small town of Barnesville has been easy-going for Matthew until a star-crossed teen-age couple disappears. Harkness is the keeper of secrets in his little town and to solve the crime, he must decide which secrets to expose. One secret involves Judge Barnes, the county’s most powerful man. But Harkness has a secret of his own: he’s in love with the Judge’s wife. How much is Harkness willing to risk to catch a murderer?

Excerpt:

Three dozen young men, most of them towheaded, in football pads and cutoffs grunted as they pushed blocking sleds in the late afternoon sun. It must have been ninety-five degrees out, but thank God, not a hundred. It got so unbearable here ‘bout when it cracked a hundred, the snakes and coyotes hid in their holes until the sun went down.

“Pick it up, Rob,” Coach Conroy yelled in a high-pitched voice. “What are you? Some kind of pussy?”

I said my hellos to Conroy, an ugly man wearing a jarhead haircut, a permanent smile, and an Alabama sweatshirt—takes a special man to wear a sweatshirt in this heat. He asked me if I found Joey yet.

“We’re still working on it,” I said. “I understand that he disappeared after practice. Anything unusual happen yesterday? Anything that might relate to the boy’s disappearance?”

“Like what?”

“Like anything.” I felt a bit aggrieved. Smart folks playing dumb made my scalp itch. Good old boy drawl or not, Conroy was no dummy.

“Ordinary practice. Joey did break loose for a sixty-three yarder in scrimmage.” Conroy tooted his whistle twice and, without further prompting, the kids broke into groups for specialized drills. How could a man smile so much?

“Joey especially close with anyone here?” I asked.

“Ronnie, over there.” Conroy pointed at the quarterback, a lanky kid with fire-red hair.

“The Gearhart kid?”

“Good quarterback, nice kid,” Conroy said.

I thought of his old man sitting in my lockup. “Maybe being a drunk asshole skips a generation.”

Conroy looked at me quizzically for a moment. His masculine smell was overwhelming, like he was some great beast king. He opened his arms as if to embrace his team. “We’re going to State this year, mark my words. We’ll win State. Barnestown, State Triple A Champs, 1952.” I didn’t doubt him. He was a firecracker, but I found myself not caring. Ronnie Gearhart sprinted out on an option and tossed a clothesline pass down the field to a waiting receiver who muffed the catch. Linebackers and defensive tackles panted like Chihuahua’s chasing a greyhound.

“We’ll wrap up in half an hour.” Conway was already moving toward his team and seeming to forget me. “Okay, ladies,” he yelled. “Pick it up!”Michael Bigham photo

• Paperback: 198 pages
• Publisher: Muskrat Press (October 17, 2012)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0615721974
• ISBN-13: 978-0615721972

Link to purchase: http://www.amazon.com/Harkness-A-High-Desert-Mystery/dp/0615721974/

Raised in the mill town of Prineville in Central Oregon beneath blue skies and rimrocks, Michael Bigham attended the University of Oregon and during his collegiate summers, fought range fires on the Oregon high desert for the Bureau of Land Management. He worked as a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Michael lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter. Harkness is his first novel.

Visit Michael online at http://michaelbigham.com/.

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