The Ploughmen

A Novel

Kim Zupan

Henry Holt and Co.

A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel that “captures the feel of Montana.” (Larry McMurtry)

“One of finest evocations of life in Western America in recent memory… Powerful and profoundly moving.”—William Kittredge

Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.

At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.


Read an Excerpt



As if to fend off a blow he threw up his arms in front of his face and the first bullet went through his thin forearm and through the top half of his right ear and went whirring into the evening like a maddened wasp. The next as he turned to run took him high in the back of the neck and he fell headlong and did not move. The old man went to him and examined the wound critically. He turned the boy over. The bullet had come out below his nose and the old man considered its work, while the boy batted his eyes and took in the sky beyond the killer’s bland and placid




  • Kim Zupan on writing The Ploughmen

    Kim Zupan discusses 'The Ploughmen.'



Praise for The Ploughmen

"Nuanced…fascinating…What Zupan offers is a superb, retro prose style, channeling William Faulkner in long passages engorged with vocabulary, and meditations on what it means to be alive, if barely, in rural Montana circa 1980…a rich, morose meditation on death, law enforcement, and friendship."

“[A] riveting debut….A fascinating first novel that examines the complexities of two men, opposites in every way, whose lives nevertheless intertwine.  With such a strong debut, Zupan’s literary future looks exceptionally promising.”
—Library Journal

 “In a voice that evokes the great contemporary Western landscape, Kim Zupan’s debut novel The Ploughmen weaves a gripping tale both personal and epic. This is a story of two men, a deputy and his prisoner, and the uncommon bond forged between them. A stunning work from the first pages to the last, this is a book that will not let down.”
—Claire Davis, author of Winter Range and Labors of the Heart

“Kim Zupan has captured the feel of Montana: He has made a fine beginning.”
—Larry McMurtry, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove

The Ploughmen is simply splendid; lyrical, surprising, authoritative and starkly honest in its rendering of the human soul. The relationships between Mr. Zupan’s complex and heartbreaking characters gripped me from the first page and have left me wondering still at the grace that affords us moments of generosity and compassion.”
Mark Spragg, author of An Unfinished Life

“[A] startling beautiful debut novel from a talented craftsman…The tone recalls both Ace Atkins’s western work (e.g., The Broken Places) and the languor of Ray Bradbury. VERDICT Spare and emotionally devastating, this cannot be recommended highly enough.”
—“Books for Dudes”, Library Journal

“Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen is one of finest evocations of life in Western America in recent memory, a book that stands alongside Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, James Welch’s Fools Crow…Zupan’s prose is elegant and reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy at his best, and the action is terrifying and abrupt. And yet at heart this is a powerful and profoundly moving story about the heartbroken souls of women and men who are attempting to fashion significant lives in the grassy plains of Montana.”
William Kittredge, author of Hole in the Sky

The Ploughmen is part inspired fever-dream, part adventure story, a lyric parable of not just goodand evil but of the vast and beautiful and often lonely country in-between. Kim Zupan is a wonder.”
Rick Bass, author of The Watch and The Wild Marsh

The Ploughmen is as good a book as I’ve read in years. Kim Zupan’s language is as rich as Cormac McCarthy’s, and like Cormac’s, it comes from ground-zero of the heart. I’m also reminded of James Lee Burke’s sure-footed prose and delight in metaphor. Luminous…nothing short of brilliant…a firstnovel that leaves me impatient for the next.”
Rick DeMarinis, author of The Year of the Zinc Penny and Borrowed Hearts: New and Selected Stories


Reviews from Goodreads



  • Kim Zupan

  • Kim Zupan, a native Montanan, lives in Missoula and grew up in and around Great Falls, where much of The Ploughmen is set. For twenty-five years Zupan made a living as a carpenter while pursuing his writing. He has also worked as a smelterman, pro rodeo bareback rider, ranch hand, Alaska salmon fisherman and presently teaches carpentry at Missoula College. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana.

  • Kim Zupan Lucy Capehart




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The Ploughmen

A Novel

Kim Zupan



Henry Holt and Co.