Four Dead Horses, K.T. Sparks

On May 1, 1982, eighteen-year-old Martin Oliphant watches a horse drown off the shore of Lake Michigan—the first of four equine corpses marking the trail that will lead Martin out of the small-minded small town of Pierre, Michigan, onto the open ranges of Elko, Nevada, and into the open arms, or at least open mics, of the cowboy poets who gather there to perform. Along the way, he nurtures a dying mother, who insists the only thing wrong with her is tennis elbow; corrals a demented father, who believes he’s Father Christmas; assists the dissolute local newspaper editor; and serves stints as horse rustler and pet mortician. For thirty years, Martin searches for an escape route to the West, to poetry, and to his first love, the cowgirl Ginger, but never manages to get much farther than the city limits of his Midwestern hometown—that is, until a world- famous cow horse dies while touring through Pierre, and Martin is tapped to transport its remains to the funeral at the 32nd Annual Elko Cowboy Poetry Confluence.

KT Sparks is a writer and farmer whose work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Pank, and elsewhere. She received an AB in Politics, Economics, Rhetoric, and Law from University of Chicago, an MA in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from Oxford University, Brasenose College, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University in Charlotte, an educational grounding that matches her lifelong interest in everything and mastery of nothing. She spent twenty-five years in Washington DC, most of it in the US Senate, as a policy analyst and speechwriter and continues to be involved in progressive politics. When she’s not reading fiction (all types) or trying to banish weeds from the vegetable garden, she practices Zen Buddhism, binges British detective series, and cooks stuff grown on the farm (or by her more talented neighbors). Her greatest passion is her large distended family, which includes children, stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, in-laws, exes, and seemingly unending concentric circles of spouses, partners, fiancés, more exes, and more spouses—shining bright and swirling outward, like the rings of Jupiter, but less dusty. KT lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, dog, a fluctuating population of barn cats, and no horses, dead or alive, waiting for the kids to come visit, or at least call for God’s sake. Four Dead Horses is her first novel.