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the dilemma

Category: Fiction
ISBN:   9781408897027
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
On sale: January 2020
List price: R305
Format: Paperback
eBook ISBN

On Swift Horses


Shannon Pufahl


Set in 1950’s America at a time when people stopped looking west and started looking up: a breathtakingly beautiful debut novel of revolution, chance and the gambles we take with the human heart.

Muriel, newly married and newly orphaned, works as a waitress in a San Diego diner. As she pours coffee and empties ashtrays, she eavesdrops on her customers, the ex-jockeys and trainers of the Del Mar racetrack.
When she begins, secretly, to bet on the horses and, shockingly, to win, she feels strangely unready to share her good luck and its origins with her husband Lee.
Instead it is Lee’s brother, Julius, a thief and Korean War veteran – and someone she has only met once – whom she longs to tell, and who has struck a spark of promise and possibility inside her quietly ordered life.
Julius has found himself in Las Vegas, where his gift for gambling leads him to a job patrolling the boards above the casino tables, watching through the cigarette smoke for chancers and cheats.  There he meets Henry, a blackjack artist and a man who shares Julius’s passions, and his secrets. As tourists gather on roof tops to watch atomic clouds bloom in the desert, Henry and Julius's love burns in the shadows – until one night Henry is forced to flee.
Through the parks and plazas of Tijuana and the bars and beaches of San Diego, On Swift Horses mesmerisingly charts the journeys of Muriel and Julius on their separate quests for freedom, new horizons and love.

Shannon Pufahl grew up in rural Kansas. She teaches at Stanford University, where she was a Stegner Fellow in Fiction. For many years she worked as a freelance music writer and bartender. Her essays, on topics ranging from eighteenth-century America to her childhood, have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Monterey, CA, with her wife and their dog.

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