Robert Olen Butler

Cindy Seip

Robert Olen Butler is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 18 works of fiction, including Hell: A Novel, A Small Hotel: A Novel, and Perfume River: A Novel. He is also the author of six short story collections and a book on the creative process, From Where You Dream. Late City: A Novel (Atlantic Monthly Press) centers around former newspaperman Sam Cunningham as he prepares to die. As a conversation between the dying man and a surprising God unfolds, the stories cover much of the early 20th century. They go back to his childhood in Louisiana with a harsh father who he comes to resent for his physical abuse and flawed morality, and revisit an underage Sam enlisting in the Army as a sniper – as an escape and a way to prove himself. The hardness he learned in service helped him make it out of World War I’s trenches alive, but it has also prevented him from dealing with the emotional wounds of battle. As Sam recalls his newspaper career in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties and the decades that follow, snippets of history are brought sharply into focus. And as he contemplates his relationships – with his parents, his brothers in arms, his wife, his editor, and most importantly, his son – Sam is amazed at what he still has left to learn about himself.