Perry Adams has hit rock bottom, fed by the demons of too much alcohol and not enough patience. One day, he pulls a flask of rum from his hip pocket, raises it to his lips, and sucks down a swig of simple truth: hard knocks are driving his decision to skedaddle. Perry is the bane of his Indiana hometown and his only choice is to pack a saddlebag. The great-great-grandson of a pirate, Perry desires a fresh start far from the clutches of his abusive father. He steals his father’s mule and trades his bottle of rum for adventure and freedom along a soulful trek of exploration and growth that takes him to the promised land of Kansas Territory. While his quest for self, serenity, and redemption is inspiring, his perils and adventures do not cease after reaching the region known as Bleeding Kansas.

Arriving in the new land as an unprepared squatter during a ruthless winter, Perry discovers life in the unfamiliar territory is cruel. Even before the war, beatings, pillage, lynchings, and murder stalk the region as brutal lines are drawn between those supporting and opposing slavery. Perry’s dream of establishing a farm, finding love, and starting a family is beset by dramatic hurdles and soul-wrenching decisions at every turn.

Perry becomes a celebrity among the folks who live in the nearby abolitionist stronghold, but they also cower from him. As he struggles to carve a successful farm out of the wilderness, he grows through relationships with the local constable, a pair of freed slaves, a bartending couple, a shopkeeper and a gentleman “genie.” He meets the love of his life, an angelic but mysterious young schoolteacher who, solely for the love of music, plays piano at the bar. Winning her heart becomes his obsession as he confronts challenges around every corner.

About Mace Thornton

Mace Thornton is a recovering journalist, an author, and strategic communications specialist. A native of Troy, Kansas, he grew up on a small farm in the Missouri River Hills of northeast Kansas. With a degree in journalism from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., among his passions are writing, sports, and the people of agriculture. His award-winning journalism and commentaries have been published across the nation. His career took him far away from his home state for more than three decades, but he now lives a little closer, in the St. Louis area with his wife, Denise, and their spirited rescue pup, Anna Mae. In addition to writing, he is a partner at Stratovation Group, a research, marketing, and communications firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. The soul of his first novel, Jawbone Holler, is drawn from the hills where he was raised and the stories that echo through the people who embrace them. The Thorntons have three adult children scattered to the corners of our great nation: Trace (and Amy) in Virginia, Troy (and Katrina) in Washington state, and Taylor (and Shawn) in Georgia. They also have one granddaughter, Grace.

Mace Thornton spins a fine yarn complete with an authentic cast of frontier settlers and renegade outlaws who exhibit the grit and gumption necessary to bring this tale to life. Set in the day when Kansas, still a territory, sought to find its true identity, “Jawbone Holler” heralds the next celebrated western novel.

John Schlageck, Noted Kansas Columnist

Mace Thornton’s muscular debut combines gritty authenticity with masterful story-telling and rockets you back in time to the opening of the American frontier with all its promise -- and danger. Thornton’s Perry Adams is a dreamer and doesn’t think of himself as a pioneer, but that is precisely his evolution in Jawbone Holler.

Mike Matson, columnist and author of Courtesy Boy

Provocative, visceral, and yet somehow incredibly enchanting, JAWBONE HOLLER uses an era in early American post-slavery history to shine light on current social issues while also showcasing the true meaning of the “America Dream” through hard work and—lots—of personal sacrifice. You’ll finish this novel appreciating how far we’ve come as a country and society yet also angered/alarmed at how much in common we still have with our ancestors.

C.K. Kerfoot, Editor and former Professor of English