Most authors research novels at the library, but Philipp Meyer's preparation for his second book was a little…grittier.
"I taught myself to bow-hunt," he says. "I took months of classes on animal tracking. I went to a ranch and shot two buffalo and drank a coffee mug full of hot blood from the neck of one." The result of that gore-spattered groundwork is The Son (Ecco, $28), a complex, crowd-pleasing Western in the vein of Giant and Lonesome Dove that follows several generations of a Texas family as they try to establish a ranching and oil dynasty.
The 39-year-old author's rise has been almost as twisty as his epic novel's plot. A high-school dropout from Baltimore, Meyer briefly worked on Wall Street before quitting to write. "I was looking around at Jonathan Safran Foer and Zadie Smith," he says, "and thought, 'How hard can this really be?'" Turns out, very: He junked his first effort, and his second was rejected by every publisher in New York. But he sold his next book, 2009's American Rust, a stream-of-consciousness novel set in a modern-day steel town that earned him comparisons to Steinbeck and Faulkner and a spot on The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" list.
Blending entertaining narrative with insights about American creation myths, The Son should further enhance Meyer's fast-growing literary reputation. Now he's starting to mull over his next novel. How will he top buffalo-blood chugging? "The next book is going to be, like, total fucking magic-realism," he says. "Because I don't know how to do that. Whatever. I'll figure it out."
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