American West and Fiction

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Thomas Fox Averill

Winner of the 2012 Western Heritage Award for Outstanding Western Novel

A 2012 Kansas Notable Book

2012 Spur Award Finalist

When Thomas Fox Averill first heard Jimmy Driftwood's ballad "Tennessee Stud," he found the song hauntingly compelling. As he began to imagine the story behind the lyrics, he set out to research the song's history--a tale from "along about eighteen and twenty-five" of the legendary exploits of the greatest horse that ever lived, the "Tennessee Stud," and his owner.

Traveling the same route the song chronicles, from Tennessee into Arkansas, through Texas and into Mexico, Averill visited racetracks, Spanish missions, historical museums, a living history farm, and national parks, inventing characters of his own along the way. His novel captures the spirit of the ballad while telling the story of Robert Johnson, a man who holds love in his heart though adventure rules his time. Pursued by a bounty hunter, Indians, and his conscience, Johnson and his horse are tested, strengthened, and made resolute.


Thomas Fox Averill, a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, is professor of English and writer-in-residence at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.


“Based on the American folk ballad ‘Tennessee Stud,’ this novel by the author of Secrets of the Tsil Café is an artistic masterpiece galloping with classic all-American appeal.”


Library Journal, starred review

"A new life, a hope for the future, the bonds of friendship and family: the classic story of America, told in 'Rode' with depth and emotion."


Kansas City Star

"Averill's book is a uniquely American story that whispers great truths about humanity as a whole. It tells of the best and worst within the human psyche but also of the unbreakable bonds of love and death between the human an non-human world."


Kansas History

"Precise language, compelling characterizations and driving narrative provide an immersion into another time that is the essence of great historical fiction."


Historical Novels Review

6 x 9 in. 216 pages