Painted Horses


“Set in an American West of the 1950s but carrying vestiges of the nineteenth century, and with Indian artifacts and the ancestry of wild horses going back even earlier, much of this novel, like its milieu, has a timeless feel. . . . Though some readers will rightly find in Brooks’ theme suggestions of Jim Harrison or Cormac McCarthy, the lengthy wartime flashbacks nicely recall vintage Hemingway. . . . Its vividly drawn atmosphere and strong characters will keep the reader engaged.” —Mark Levine, Booklist

“Painted Horses is evidence that the many-peopled, colorific, panoramic, fully wraparound, pull-you-in-by-the-heels, big-questions, literarily deft ‘Great American Novel’ still lives.” —Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves

From its filmic geographical canvases and epochs to its mesmerizing close-ups of men, women and horses whose weaknesses, wounds, and powers are in plain paradoxical view, Malcolm Brooks’ novel-making is always skilled and often breath-taking. There isn’t a passing landscape, archaeological wonder, minor character, dialect, or wild horse in this story that isn’t convincing. And the broken but magic horseman, John H, is for my money one of the great characters of Montana’s estimable literature.” —David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why“

Painted Horses is a wonderful novel full of horses, archeology, the new West, and two fascinating women. Malcolm Brooks should be lauded for this amazing debut. Very fine.” —Jim Harrison, author of Legends of the Fall and Brown Dog

Available at your local independent bookstore. You can also order the book from Barnes & Noble.

From Grove Atlantic:

“In the mid-1950s, America was flush with prosperity and saw an unbroken line of progress clear to the horizon, while the West was still very much wild. In this ambitious, incandescent debut, Malcolm Brooks animates that time and rugged landscape in a richly textured, sweeping tale of the modern and the ancient, of love and fate, and of heritage threatened by progress.

“Catherine Lemay is a young archaeologist on her way to Montana, with a huge task before her—a canyon ‘as deep as the devil’s own appetites.’ Working ahead of a major dam project, she has one summer to prove nothing of historical value will be lost in the flood. From the moment she arrives, nothing is familiar—the vastness of the canyon itself mocks the contained, artifact-rich digs in post-Blitz London where she cut her teeth. And then there’s John H, a former mustanger and veteran of the U.S. Army’s last mounted cavalry campaign, living a fugitive life in the canyon. John H inspires Catherine to see beauty in the stark landscape, and her heart opens to more than the vanished past. 

“Reminiscent of the work of Wallace Stegner, Thomas McGuane, and Annie Proulx, Painted Horses sends a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest, sings a love song to the horseman’s vanishing way of life, and reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future often make strange bedfellows. It establishes Malcolm Brooks as an extraordinary new talent.” 

“Reminiscent of the fiery, lyrical and animated spirit of Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy, and the wisdom and elegance of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of ReposePainted Horses is its own work, a big, old-fashioned and important novel.” —Rick Bass, author of All the Land to Hold Us

“Brooks’s debut captures the grandeur of the American West.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brooks delivers an authentic story, examining in gripping, page-turning prose what it means to live in the West. . . . An outstanding debut novel that will linger in the reader’s mind.” —Donna Bettencourt, Library Journal (starred review)

“Malcolm Brooks’ novel has the hard thrill of the West, when it was still a new world, the tenderness of first love and the pain of knowledge. This book is a gripping, compulsively readable page-turner.” —Amy Bloom, author of Away

“Malcolm Brooks has the same intuitive understanding of women that his character John H has of horses. Painted Horses is a beautiful, sensual, authentic novel. A western novel that is about so much more than the West, it is an exquisite, enthralling debut.” —Lily King, author of Euphoria

“Set in grandly imposing Montana in the mid-1950s and weaving together Old World and New World archaeology while vividly portraying an American West now lost, this debut also works in miniature as it deftly portrays two characters who become unlikely allies. . . . A bold, beautiful read.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal (“Barbara’s Picks”)

“In Painted Horses, Malcolm Brooks tells a spectacular story in which an archeological adventuress searches for signs of a pre-conquest culture in the rugged depths of a Montana canyon ahead of construction of a hydroelectric dam. Real and painted horses, danger and defeat, and an enduring love affair. Kept me up through a few nights.” —William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky and The Willow Field

Painted Horses is the kind of finely tuned and literary love story they don’t make much of anymore. Fans of Jamie Ford’s novels, or Jim Harrison’s, will be enthralled by Malcolm Brooks. He evokes a time and a place tinged by an autumnal sun, the brass thunderclap of things ending and beginning again. Painted Horses will carry you away.” —Doug Stanton, author of the New York Times bestseller Horse Soldiers

“I read Malcolm Brooks’ new novel, Painted Horses, with fascination, then amazement. Big, thrilling, poignant, astonishingly confident, it is the work of a master rather than that of a first-time novelist. With a story that moves from the bombed cities and battlefields of Europe to the wild badlands of Eastern Montana, and an eye for everything from the quality of a horse to the techniques of painting and archaeology, it will draw you in and leave you dreaming. I have rarely read a novel that realized a world so well.” —Stephen Bodio, author of An Eternity of Eagles and Querencia

Painted Horses is a gorgeous, luminous song of a novel. Malcolm Brooks not only knows landscape and history and the blood that stains it around the world, he also knows lost tribes that are merely hidden, ancient ways that yet reside forever in the few who choose to listen. This is a stunning debut and a novel that gracefully stands up to comparison with Harrison’s Legends of the Fall and McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. But as such, it stands alone. I suspect we’ll be hearing much more from Brooks.” —Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall