Shirtless Men Drink Free
by Dwaine Rieves
Set amidst 2004’s polarizing election fears—immigrants and job takeovers, terrorists in waiting, homosexual and outsider agendas—Shirtless Men Drink Free makes vivid the human soul’s struggle in a world bedeviled by desire and the fears that leave us all asking—Why?
In a vision above her mother’s deathbed, Doctor Jane Beekman sees her dying mother’s soul—a soul struggling with a decision, some undone task, something in this world too noble to leave. The sight was brief, but surely a lesson. The lingering question—Why?—prompts a shift in the doctor’s priorities. For in this election year Jane must do what her mother, an aspiring social activist, would have done.
Soon, Jane is deep in the world of Georgia politics, working to make sure her dynamic young brother-in-law Jackson Beekman is elected the next governor, regardless of what the soul of the candidate’s dead father or that of his living brother—Jane’s husband—might want done. Indeed, it is a mother’s persistence and a father’s legacy that will ultimately turn one Beekman brother against the other, a struggle with moral consequences that may extend far beyond Georgia.
Set amidst 2004’s polarizing election fears—immigrants and job takeovers, terrorists in waiting, homosexuals and outsider agendas—Shirtless Men Drink Free makes vivid the human soul’s struggle in a world bedeviled by desire and the fears that leave us all asking—Why?
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“Dwaine Rieves writes fiction with such authority that it’s hard to believe Shirtless Men Drink Free is a first novel and not a tenth. This is brilliant and rare work, as attentive to an absorbing plot as it is to a poetic, chiseled cadence.”—Paul Lisicky, award-winning author of The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship
“These characters are all too real. Rieves, as Faulkner, McMurtry, and Larry Brown, writes people and story that will worm, burrow into you. Change you even.”—Adam Van Winkle, Founder and Editor, Cowboy Jamboree
“This is as haunting and wise a novel as any you will read this year.”—Margaret Meyers, author of Swimming in the Congo
INTERVIEW from Blogger News Network, Feb. 13, 2019:
1) Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I am a very late bloomer for a writer, having spent nearly the first half of my life in medical training and practice. I began jotting down nonmedical thoughts when I was working as a critical care physician, ruminations that I scratched out on the back of my “to-do” list. Typically, these sketched out musings only appeared when I was fixed in an in-between time—such as awaiting completion of a patient’s CT or MRI scan, moments when I couldn’t actually attend the bedside. Odd, but I guess the musings were some form of attending myself. After a while, I thought these musings looked a little like poems, so I started sending them off to literary magazines. Some were published; a great many rejected and ultimately a collection won the 2005 Tupelo Press Prize for Poetry. In those days, I found that poetry was beginning to lose some of its challenge writing-wise—the process just seemed to flow too easily for some quirky reason.
I then put aside the poetry to develop Shirtless Men Drink Free, a novel that I labored over as if it were a poem, albeit one that took about twelve years to write. Indeed, here was the challenge! During this painful growth process, I trashed three fully fleshed-out novels because they simply didn’t work—my characters were not satisfied. Sometimes I think my characters matured over the many years of writing and re-writing, such that they eventually lowered their expectations—the result being a finished novel that left my crew of characters very satisfied.
Writing for me is a somewhat odd variation on medical practice; that is, I perform a history and physical on my subject matter (sometimes myself!) during the writing process. My writing is an exploration, an attempt at discovering what’s wrong and what I can or cannot do about it, what’s right but vulnerable to calamity, what is changing despite me. In other words, my writing is about people and the world they’re trying to understand—in short, a record of what within my mind I find.
3) Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.
The novel began as an exercise in writing a long narrative that had, as its backbone, poetry. And, like most of my poetry, the impetus for the story came from images. Two images, one of a steam room where a man provocatively lifts a towel and the other a star-speckled Alabama night when I’m driving home to help care for my dying mother. In the first image, the man is (was) a prominent Southern politician; in the second image the sound is Talk Radio, irate callers from across the South attributing all the nation’s woes to the homosexual agenda. The images demanded a voice, and that voice speaks in Shirtless Men Drink Free. The title is, of course, a gay bar slogan. But its metaphor runs far deeper than the sensationalistic tone in the words.
4) How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?…..
The Local Voice, Jan. 2, 2019: North Mississippi Native, Doctor and Award-Winning Writer Pens Unforgettable Debut Novel
Shirtless Men Drink Free by Mississippi native and Ole Miss Alum Dwaine Rieves Slated for January 2019 Release
Published by Leapfolio, a division of Tupelo Press, Shirtless Men Drink Free will be available on January 8, 2019.
Award-winning writer, Ole Miss Alum and Mississippi native Dwaine Rieves will celebrate the release of his debut novel, Shirtless Men Drink Free, on January 8, 2019. Published by Tupelo Press joint venture partner Leapfolio, Shirtless Men Drink Free will be available where fine books are sold.
Rieves, a physician and winner of the River Styx International Poetry Prize and the Tupelo Press Prize for Poetry, delivers a captivating, confident, and assured debut novel in Shirtless Men Drink Free. Set against the backdrop of a wildly polarizing election, Shirtless Men Drink Free is the story of souls—and the bodies that won’t let them go.
About Shirtless Men Drink Free: Doctor Jane Beekman has seen her dying mother’s soul, a vision above the bed—a soul struggling with a decision, some undone task, something in this world too noble to leave. The sight, however brief, was surely a lesson. The question that lingers—why?—prompts a shift in the doctor’s priorities. In this election year, Jane must do what her mother, an aspiring social activist, would have done. Soon, Jane is embroiled in the world of Georgia politics, working to make sure her dynamic younger brother-in-law Jackson Beekman is selected as the next governor, regardless of what the soul of the candidate’s dead father or that of his living brother—Jane’s husband—might want done. Indeed, it is a mother’s persistence and a father’s legacy that will ultimately turn one Beekman brother against the other, launching a struggle with moral consequences that may extend far beyond Georgia. Set amidst 2004’s polarizing election fears—immigrants and job take-overs, terrorists in waiting, homosexuals, and outsider agendas—Shirtless Men Drink Free makes vivid the human soul’s struggle in a world bedeviled by desire and the fears that leave us all asking—Why?
Engaging, beautifully written and resplendent with realism, Shirtless Men Drink Free is a standout debut destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned. Thoughtful and thought-provoking, poignant, poetic, and populated with unforgettable characters, Shirtless Men Drink Free explores the impact of a parent’s death and legacy on the lives of surviving sons and daughters. A meticulously crafted tale that showcases an outstanding new voice in Southern fiction, Shirtless Men Drink Free has garnered high advance praise…