Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lone Star Book Blog Tour Presents: Book Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway for Mayhem Three Lives of a Woman by Elizabeth Harris

MAYHEM Three Lives of a Woman by Elizabeth Harris
Genre: Historical Literary Fiction
Date of Publication: October 5, 2015
Publisher: Gival Press
# of pages: 130
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Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman is a literary novel with a historical setting that engages issues of gender, vigilantism, recovery from trauma, and nostalgia for the rural and small-town past.
Two stock-farmers in 1936 Texas are accused of castrating a neighbor. Mayhem is the story of their crime and its consequences–the violent past and standard gender relations that enable it, and its economic displacement of the modest, well-connected woman who occasions it.
Around the edges of the story, an authorial narrator admits why she fictionalizes this past and shapes the novel as she does.


“Mayhem is a wonder of a novel.  A careful evocation of time and place, community and character, pitched in a voice rich with the lyric poetry of everyday speech, the novel seems not so much narrated as blown up by a breeze.   It’s not enough to claim that I believed every word of it; I felt every syllable.  This archetypal tale of crime and punishment, so filled with tragedy and sympathy, is one of the most wildly alive novels I have ever read.   Every sentence teems with truths both literal and metaphorical, and yet, for all its wisdom and profundity, it reaches us in the manner of a folk ballad, high and sweet and clear.” -- Michael Parker, author of All I Have in This World and The Watery Part of the World

“. . .what to read, watch, and listen to this. . .month in order to achieve maximum Texas cultural literacy. . .Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman, Elizabeth Harris. . .” -- Jeff Salamon, Texas Monthly
“In the tradition of Wendell Berry’s elegiac fiction, Elizabeth Harris’ Mayhem. . . a novel that shows reverence to the American South and the people who labored there, but, unlike Berry’s Port William, Kentucky, Harris’ Prince Carl County is unmistakably Central Texas, complete with cattle, cotton, pink granite courthouses and tight-knit German communities.” – Amy Ritthaler Gilmour, San Antonio Express News
“. . . expresses solidarity with marginalized white women from small rural towns, performs a sophisticated act of sisterhood.. . .the quietly insightful and beautifully written Mayhem intrigues and enlightens.” -- Judith Newton, Huffington Post

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Chapter One Excerpt
Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman
By Elizabeth Harris


A young woman climbing out of an old Essex in a cloche hat and a flowered maroon rummage-sale dress in front of the Prince Carl County courthouse, that’s what some observers will remember—and everything they knew about her at the time. Not her companion, except as part of what they knew, a gray-haired woman leaning back to the window to talk to the driver. Just, for a memory-snapshot of time and place, the young woman Evelyn Gant standing at the bottom of monumental granite steps, spoken of in the county as pink but really an under-color like raw liver, flecked over with black and gray and the sparkle of mica.  Some of these imagined observers who live in Meusebach go, or pretend to go, about their business on the Square; others who have driven in from the country or over from Iron Rock in hopes of getting in at the Gant brothers’ trial stare openly at the young woman, whom they know at least by sight or name. A fictional character as they themselves are characters, to them she is a person: descendent of old settlers, daughter of one landowning family, married, surely not for long now, to the son of another; and part of her fascination, escorted and left waiting in the lemony light of the October morning, is that she seems almost in custody, a defendant herself. In fact, she is only a witness and, being the wife of one of the defendants, a limited witness, but she is the trial’s most intriguing spectacle, the origin of the crime, the modest, obedient, well regarded woman taken in adultery. People think of her in that phrase, out of its context except as it explains her being sheltered by Sister and Brother White of Iron Rock First Baptist, a charitable act permissible because no Baptists are parties to the trial. The Whites are presumed to have their own hopes for her.

Elizabeth Harris is the author of Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman (2015), which won the Gival Press Novel Award and was a finalist for the Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Fiction (2016). Mayhem has been reviewed with enthusiasm, praised as essential cultural Texana, and compared to fiction of Katherine Anne Porter, Wendell Berry, Cormac McCarthy, and Annie Proulx for its style and its penetration of the Western myth. Harris’s first book The Ant Generator (1991), a short story collection, was chosen by Marilynne Robinson for the prestigious John Simmons Award from the University of Iowa Press. Some of her stories have been anthologized in New Stories from the South, Best of Wind, The Iowa Award, and Literary Austin. Two other novel manuscripts of Harris’ have been recognized in national competitions. 
Harris grew up as Betsy Hall on the east side of Ft. Worth, where she became an avid reader. Her father was a journalist, a former editor of The Daily Texan in 1930-31 who worked for the now-defunct Ft. Worth Press and Pittsburgh Press, and she recalls former newswomen—who had become reporters during World War II—as personal inspirations and role models. She went to high school in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, and to Carnegie-Mellon and Stanford Universities. She taught fiction-writing at the University of Texas at Austin and counts many friends and writers among her former students. She and her husband are birders and football fans. Visit Elizabeth Harris at

  August 15 - 24, 2016
Check out the other great blogs on the tour! 

Author Interview
Guest Post
Author Interview
Author Interview

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