“It’s a Western with a twist. Set in the 1870’s, and eventually in the legendary town of Deadwood, the plot gallops along like a runaway horse. Part Oliver Twist, part Sisters Brothers, this one’s a great summer read.”
Glenn Dixon (Bootleg Stardust, Juliet’s Answer)
Available from Amazon (hardcover, US$25,95 CAN$32.95), bookstores and, if you live in Winnipeg, personal delivery. Contact me at booknewsbob, followed by the “at” sign and gmail dot com.
“This novel and its trio of teenagers surprised me over and over again. Prodigies is a rip-roaring, unexpected, funny, and utterly original escape.”
- Angie Abdou (This One Wild Life, In Case I Go)
“Winnipeg based author Bob Armstrong has written an engaging Western novel with crossover appeal to young adult audiences. Set in 1870s New York and Midwest America, Prodigies grips readers tight and holds on right to the end. … The novel’s explosive conclusion could certainly launch a sequel as our prodigies (now friends) dust off and continue their journeys.”
- Anita Daher (You Don’t Have to Die in the End)
I began considering my forthcoming novel, Prodigies, after a trip to the old Arizona mining boomtown of Jerome in 2010. By 2015, I was well into a first draft of Prodigies, by this point set in Deadwood and various points east.
In the last decade, I’ve read plenty of fiction and non-fiction set along the North American frontier between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. Recently, I thought about some differences and similarities between Canadian and American literary treatments of frontier themes and settings. The result was this essay in the June 2021 issue of The Literary Review of Canada. https://reviewcanada.ca/magazine/2021/06/writing-into-the-sunset/
Like many of you, I’ve been helped through the pandemic by regular walking. Hikes, walk-and-talks, neighbourhood strolls: anything that gets me out in the world and moving around has been helpful.
Another thing that’s helped me get through a time of fear, uncertainty and enforced idleness, which preceded the pandemic, has been comedy. Just before Christmas 2019 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and put on the list for surgery. Almost immediately, I began working on stand-up material, most of it mining my cancer experience. Before pandemic shutdowns began, I did one set in January 2020 before my surgery and another in early March once I’d recovered enough from surgery to go out in the evening.
Since December, I’ve been doing monthly comedy sets on Facebook Live, gradually moving beyond the cancer material. (Sure, I’ve played the cancer card. Look at me. It’s the only card I’ve got.)
This wasn’t a huge departure for me. All of my plays were comedies or hybrid comedies (thriller comedy, philosophical comedy, comedy drama). And in my upcoming novel, Prodigies, one of the characters is a wise-cracking gang member whose dream is to tell jokes for a living in saloons and dance halls. Coming up with intentionally anachronistic Borscht Belt-style jokes for this character was one of the most enjoyable parts of writing Prodigies.
I’ve recently had a creative non-fiction piece, entitled The Cancer Joke, about my cancer and comedy experience accepted for publication. I’ll follow with more details on this one shortly.
I’ve also pulled together my feelings about the pandemic year in a magical realist comedic short story called The Going and the Gone, which will be published shortly in FreeFall Magazine, an Alberta-based literary magazine. I’ll post the link as soon as it’s up.
My novel, Prodigies, was to have been launched this month, but like every other plan over the last year, that plan didn’t account for the arrival of the pandemic. A series of cascading delays swept through the publishing industry last year, as spring releases wee delayed until fall, fall until winter and so on.
Prodigies is now scheduled to hit the shelves this July. I’m pitching it to literary festivals now and hoping I’ll have the chance to promote it live, in person. If we’re all still in pandemic mode come autumn, maybe you’ll be able to catch me online.
Delays also struck a few of my short stories that were accepted for publication last year. I now have a story entitled Frank 2.0 appearing in an anthology of western Canadian SF, fantasy and horror. Watch for the anthology, entitled Alternate Plains, coming out this fall from Great Plains Publications. My creative non-fiction piece on cycling and stoicism, Pilgrim on a Freedom Machine, will come out this year in the anthology Write to Move.
Before those books are available, the winter 2021 issue of the Calgary literary magazine FreeFall will include my pandemic-inspired bit of magical realism, The Going and the Gone.
I’m slowly working on a sequel to Prodigies in hopes of having it available to offer to my publisher by summer.
Other than that, much of my creative writing energy in the last year has been directed to stand up comedy. I started performing at open mike events not long before the pandemic and have recently begun doing monthly stand-up on Facebook Live. Look me up at Club Zuckerberg and you might catch my latest act.
Just tip your server and drive home carefully.