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The Ploughmen

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,697 ratings  ·  352 reviews
A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana.

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 a
Audible Audio, Unabridged, 8 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Blackstone Audio, Inc. (first published August 1st 2014)
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3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,697 ratings  ·  352 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardboiled
”The distance between reason to rage is short, a frontier as thin as parchment and as frail, restraining the monster. It was there in everyone, he thought. It was there in himself. A half second of simple blind fury and the hatchet falls down.”

Deputy Valentine Millimaki is burning the candle at both ends. He, with the help of his faithful dog, looks for missing people during the day, and at night he pulls down a shift at the Copper County jail where he chats with the stone cold killer John Gload
Darling - come alone to the shed.


this is a book written in a dispassionate, matter-of-fact prose, but not so much that it comes across as detached. there is a wonderful filament of restrained emotion running through it that is pure poetry.

it's about the uneasy relationship between two men - a grizzled old criminal finally caught in his seventy-seventh year, and a young deputy with marital troubles and a tragic past, who meet in the prison where val millimaki, the deputy, has been gi
Beautiful story. Beautifully written. Wew.... this really made an impact on me. Not a happy story, but somehow hopeful... And beautiful views of the Montana wild landscape. Beautiful. and recommended.
Justin Sorbara-Hosker
On paper, this book is totally me. When the rubber hits the road, it doesn't quite hit the mark. I'll try his sophomore book, but for this novel, I have to invoke a criticism that I rarely use - it's overwritten. I have a pretty good vocabulary, but Zupan sends me to the dictionary way more than necessary. When you consistently use a $10 adjective when a $5 adjective will do, your MFA is showing.

If it's dark outside, its OK to use the word 'dark'. Elmore Leonard's most important rule about writ
Jun 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This debut novel by Kim Zupan was absolutely stunning. It succeeds on so many levels. The development of the unlikely relationship between John Gload, a man responsible for numerous murders, and Valentine Millimaki, the lawman guarding him in jail is believable and revelatory. The beautiful and symbolic descriptions of the Montana landscape were particular and evocative. The language and prose style was sublime. Highly recommended and a great choice for book clubs.

Thank you to Henry Holt and Net
Jun 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Ploughmen is part inspired fever-dream, part adventure story, a lyric parable of not just good and evil but of the vast and beautiful and often lonely country in-between. Kim Zupan is a wonder.”
Rick Bass

A fever-dream is quite apt at describing a novel that feels like an unremitting nightmare, one that doesn't reveal its undercurrents immediately but drags on and on and sticks to the skin like an unbroken heatwave.

The strength (and weakness) of this stark and violent novel about the "friend
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
As a young boy on a Montana farm, Valentine Millimaki came across a note from his mother. Darling - Come alone to the shed. It does not occur to him that he is not the darling to whom she refers, and off he goes to find her swinging from a rafter. Years later Deputy Valentine Millimaki and his trusty dog, Tom, will be the go-to team sent to track the missing, to hunt down those who have wandered off; who have lost themselves in the wilderness. It is easy to see our deputy has placed himself fore ...more
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Montana, John Gload is a 77 year old career thief and killer with a devoted wife. Young deputy sheriff Val Millimaki is a compassionate man with a difficult past and a dissatisfied wife. Part of Val's duties includes the often distressing job of searching for missing persons. Also, as the junior deputy, Val is given the night shift guarding Gload and the other prisoners. The insomniac Gload spends his nights forming an unusual relationship with Val.

For a book with a fair amount of death in it
Joseph Spuckler
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction

A young deputy's and an old killer's story run in parallel in this Montana set modern western. The deputy, Valentine Millimaki, is committed to his job and searching for missing people in the wilderness. He and his German Shepard have been on a rather depressing streak with most of the searches ending up in recovery rather than rescue. His relationship with his wife is also in a downward spiral. He is befriended by a recently arrested multiple killer, John Gload and is tasked with escorting him
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
“You know one of them sonsofbitches used a word I never heard before. I wrote it down here on my pad.”

This quote is more than just a bewildered prisoner, John Gload, on trial for his life, confused about a term employed in court. No, this is Zupan poking a little fun at his readers, acknowledging the weariness in his fingertip-fatigued digits worn to nubs while sifting through his thesaurus, ever alert for fifty-dollar words to throw about. Perse, aphotic, canzonet, integument, and a host of ot
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's crazy busy right now but I do plan to write a review of this very good book...(I hope).

A-Z Challenge with Karly and Jess

Z = Kim Zupan

4 stars

You were good to me Valentine. I hope you have a good life from here on in.
John X. Gload
P.S. I was yours, even if you wasn’t mine.

Set against the bleak Montana plains, The Ploughmen is the story of an unlikely friendship between two men, one a prisoner, the other a guard.

Valentine Millimaki, a young deputy with a troubled past, is recently assigned night watchman duty and is going through hard times. Unaccustomed to the stran
Lori Tatar
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan from Goodreads. The novel is a very rare find of poetic beauty and quiet violence. My expectations were blown away as I became completely immersed in the story of two men who couldn't be more different yet couldn't be more like each other, and the bond they forged with one another. Their pasts were uncannily similar but the choices they made literally define what we call good and evil. There is a stillness to the revelations here that cannot be described; th ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recommendation, novel

Kim Zupan has written a beautifully dark and disturbing book that reminds me of the old literature of the 50s and 60s. This is very tough to read and is nice to see that authors still exist, who can turn a one shot setting into twenty pages of amazing writing. The Road by Cormac McCarthy has been sitting on my shelf for years and because of this book, I'll be reading that novel shortly. I have no idea how this book came to be on my list, but I can strongly suggest it was a Goodread review or re
"One thing I always did, Val, was to live my life. It wasn’t a particularly interesting life but it was on my terms. Now in here I’m just living it out. [...] Now it’s just waiting. It’s only a life technically because you’re breathing in and out. Putting in the time until you clock out."

The Ploughmen is a meandering tale that switches point of view between two men: John Gload, a 77 year old that has spent his life as a contract killer but is inevitably caught and his jailer, Valentine Millima
This debut novel has several strong points, not least of which is the unusual relationship developed between the deputy, Valentine Millimaki, and the killer, John Gload. At first glance, a reader would expect them to be opposites, but that's only surface detail. Culturally and emotionally, they are the same--farmers from hardscrabble families, orphans, and loners. Whilst the deputy and the killer deviate in the emotional importance they attach to what they do and what happens to them, they are p ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this tale of a depressed police guard who spends his days tracing missing people with his dog and finding dead bodies every time and his nights with a very old crazed killer who gradually describes everything that he has done in his life. A quick read but full of great descriptions of the surroundings in Montana and great dialogue between the two main characters. Be warned that it is extremely gruesome and violent though. In the end, I somehow ended up liking the old man serial ki ...more
Two men, one a young deputy, and the other an elderly, but still dangerous killer, form an unlikely bond, when the old man is arrested and charged with murder, following his betrayal by a younger accomplice. The young deputy escorts the old man to and from the court and jail-house between court appearances. This story takes place in the stark, bleak but hauntingly beautiful Montana landscape.

He tried to make out in the window glass the face of the stranger she'd said inhabited her husband's sk
Bonnie Brody
Oct 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan is a book about and for men; about honor, violence, and retribution set in the unforgiving country of rural Montana. Two men form an unlikely kinship in jail. John Gload is a serial murderer and Val Millimaki is a junior policeman who is guarding John as he awaits trial. Both are products of privation and loss. Val's mother hung herself when he was young and he was the one who found her and cut her down. John survived his father's death in a snowstorm and went from abu
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an evocative and oddly moving novel about the relationship between an elderly killer and a young deputy sheriff. John Gload is in his seventies and awaiting trial. He has spent virtually his whole life as a criminal, seemingly untroubled by his life of violence and the lives he has taken. As he ages, Gload decides that he needs a helper, but young ‘Sid the Kid’ proves to be his undoing. When young Valentine Millimaki is sent to guard him at night, he strikes up an odd relationship with t ...more
Sep 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Fourth of July Creek
First I must credit the narrator, Jim Meskimen, as I am convinced he enhanced my enjoyment of this audiobook by at least one star. Perfect casting. His voice was captivating and echoed the melancholy of the two main characters.

I can't help but compare this to another grim story that was recently published, also set in Montana and written by a debut author, Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson. I think if you enjoyed that book as I did, you will enjoy this one, although it is even darker. This
Sue Dix
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At once stunningly gorgeous and violently brutal, this novel is unexpectedly evocative. The author’s prose is quite poetic and eloquently portrays the desolate yet beautiful country of the Montana wilderness. I love the author’s sure command of the written word, but you may want a dictionary handy. Even so, I loved this book!
JoAnne Pulcino

Kim Zupan

This debut novel takes place in rural Montana in the 1980’s where the landscape is so well written it almost becomes a character in this modern day story about the American west.

A seventy seven year old serial killer awaiting trial sits in his dark cell talking through the bars of a county jail cell with a young detective assigned to graveyard duty. The deputy is quite troubled by a marriage that is breaking apart, his eccentric conversations with the prisoner and the fact
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic story. Kim Zupan has such a wonderful, smooth, beautifully "composed" storytelling quality to him. I absolutely loved this book. His characters are truly the epitome of realistic fictional character writing. At times I subconsciously read this book like a non-fiction.

I hope everything falls into place and it ends up turning into a movie. What a debut novel. An easy 5 stars.
Timothy Knight
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a fine, gripping story. A sheriff deputy and and murderer developing a bond while battling insomnia and their own, inner ghosts. It was difficult to put down. This is a great first novel by Zupan. I look forward to his future works. My only criticism, like many others, is that he can be too liberal with his similes and will often use obscure words. This didn’t slow me down or exasperate me too much, but it was a reminder that this is a freshman work. Perhaps in future works Zupan will tigh ...more
Aaron S
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A vividly written, McCarthyesque paced tale of two men brought together through a myriad of events in which each finds a source of solace amid burdensome circumstances. One’s a stone cold killer. The most feared among the feared. The other, a young man navigating himself through the challenges of manhood and the ongoing struggles between work and marriage. Both men have had their fair (or unfair) share of difficulties to say the least. Now their lives have been intertwined and each seem to be in ...more
Robert Williams
My 10th book in my second Mr B's reading year.

Ok, I really couldn't decide if this was 3 or 4 stars, but in the end plumped for 3 because he annoyed me through much of the first half by over writing and deliberately using unusual words, it seemed, just to show you how clever he was. It reminded me of a teenager, trying to impress by using the thesaurus. It didn't make the story better, it was just annoying. His editor really should have said something and preferably to the point and in small wo
Leonard Pierce
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Remarkably adept and confident for a first novel, "The Ploughmen" is one of those books that might strike those who are easily frustrated with flowery landscape prose as excessive but which is liable to hook those for whom gorgeous descriptive language is butter on bread. You can probably guess from my rating which group I belong to. Set in the stark rural places of Montana, it's a contemporary Western of great affect and beauty, as well as a tightly wrapped psychological portrait of two men who ...more
Zuky the BookBum
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars, 2016
Also read my review here:

Darling - come alone to the shed.

I’ve found it so hard to write a review for this book because it was such a moving, descriptive novel. It was sort of one of those reads that I loved for no particular reason, it was just a gorgeous book at the right time.

This book was by no means an “easy read”, it has some very dark and upsetting subjects running throughout it but it was one of those reads that I fell into so easily and smoothl
Ron S
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This debut novel revolves around a young deputy with marital problems who can't sleep and a 77 year old killer awaiting trial in small town Montana. Despite the synopsis this is literary, not genre fiction. Archaic and unusual vocabulary throughout is strangely effective; the language is not unlike what you might expect from someone self-educated that got an MFA while in prison (which in this instance I mean as a compliment.) Writing style, characterization and place trump story here. Reads a bi ...more
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