Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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Featured Author
SHJ Issue 15
Fall 2016

William Luvaas: Beneath the Coyote Hills
[Excerpt + Reviews, Interviews, and More]

compiled by Clare MacQueen

Beneath the Coyote Hills has cost me a sleepless night that I can scarcely afford, and has left me cold with awe at the unwavering skill and subtlety of the narrative. The sheer scope of the author’s imagination, and the almost impossibly delicate poetic weight of his prose, [have] made the discovery of William Luvaas’ writing one of the genuine joys of my reading-year. He is a remarkable writer, comfortably among the finest at work in America today, and this novel is a towering and maybe career-defining achievement,
art of the highest order.

— Billy O’Callaghan, Irish Book Award-winning
author of The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind



Cover of Beneath the Coyote Hills by William Luvaas

Raised in Eugene, Oregon, William Luvaas graduated cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Diego State University. He was a student activist and first VISTA Volunteer in Alabama, working with black sharecroppers and domestic workers for civil rights and economic justice. The “William Luvaas Community Center” in rural Madison County was named in his honor.

He is the author of two story collections, A Working Man’s Apocrypha (University of Oklahoma Press) and Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle (Spuyten Duyvil Press), which was a Huffington Post’s Book of the Year and a finalist for the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Luvaas is also the author of three novels: The Seductions of Natalie Bach (Little, Brown & Foreverland Press), Going Under (Putnam & Foreverland Press), and Beneath the Coyote Hills, released in September 2016 by Spuyten Duyvil Press.

An Excerpt from Chapter One:

They say you never get more than you can handle. So how do we explain suicide, then, or divorce, or crimes of passion, or parents who murder their children, or fall to pieces after having them? How do we explain people like me?

I am akin to Dostoevsky’s underground man, living in my own underground in an olive grove outside the town of Hamlet in SoCal. Hamlet longs to be a quaint English village rather than a scrappy burg in the high desert. Once a prosperous farming community, it is now down-at-the-heels, peopled by social security retirees living in run-down trailers inherited from former retirees who died in them, ex-cons and sexual predators, evangelical shouters (a church on every corner), recyclable collectors, and nutcase old farts tooting around in golf carts decked out with American flags. Diabetic tubbies trip out of Walmart pushing shopping carts full of cheap carbs and gizmos from China. How can they afford all that shit? Gun nuts blast holes in mudstone cliffs in the wash below my place or take aim at the cross atop “The First Church of the One True Christ,” modeled on the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove. They dodge through the sagebrush in cammo gear, assault weapons at the ready, hunting “Feds.” Scares hell out of me when they invade my grove. I’ve fashioned a suit of palmetto fronds, a raffia affair, which I clamber into when they come, blending so seamlessly with the landscape that the bastards brush right past me, unaware I am there.

Doubtless there are wage earners among our Hamletites (how else could the stores stay open). Although I hear the cash economy is obsolete anymore. These days, banks fund credit vehicles which consumers use to buy products; the banks take their cut, then securitize their risk and sell it to investors via hedge funds, which cleverly bet against prosperity via credit default swaps or some such, and make a killing in the next big crash, so they can start the cycle all over again. No one really understands how it works. It’s Rube Goldberg economics, a self-perpetuating prosperity machine. Those of us on the economic outskirts get by on its leavings. One thing you can say about capitalism: it produces one helluva lot of trash.

—Tommy Aristophanos

Beneath the Coyote Hills reveals a brilliant writer confronting a vast number of small and large issues that are twisting and tainting our lives in ways most of us cannot comprehend or even imagine. In Tommy Aristophanos, Luvaas has invented the perfect partner
to utter what appear to be his own prophetic visions
about a future that seems, at this point, not only troubling,
but quite possibly inescapable as well.

— From Duff Brenna’s review A Visionary’s Visions
in this issue of Serving House Journal (SHJ-15)


“A master of timing and entertaining dialogue, William Luvaas peoples Tommy’s world with characters that are as outrageous as they are real: Tommy’s depressed mother who never gets out of bed; Crash, a tattooed, motorcycle-riding Jesus freak; Berkeley Don, hairy, kurta-wearing Buddha of the high desert; and changeling Lizard Man who haunts Tommy in his spells, as he takes readers on an unforgettable ride into the illusory world of success and failure and of reality itself. Where do we draw the line between reality and fantasy? To what extent do we write our own destiny, to what extent is it written for us?

“Part satire, part picaresque romp, part speculative adventure, Beneath The Coyote Hills unfolds as a multi-layered allegory that will stay with readers long after the last page.”

— Skylight Books, Los Angeles

...On a conscious level, I have come to realize that I want to write about outsiders, outcasts, ‘losers.’ Their plight speaks to me. My...novel Beneath The Coyote Hills is about a homeless outcast,
an epileptic tortured by demons and perennially down on his luck,
but resourceful and tough, who evidences that character
alone does not determine our fate, but that we are
impacted as well by fortune, good or bad.

— From Q&A with Writer William Luvaas
in W3 Sidecar (8 September 2016)



Essays, articles, and short stories by Luvaas have appeared in many publications, including The American Fiction Anthology, Antioch Review, Confrontation, Epiphany, Glimmer Train, Grain Magazine, North American Review, Short Story, Stand Magazine, The Sun, Texas Review, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post Book World. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Fiction and has taught creative writing at San Diego State University, The Writer’s Voice in New York, The UCLA Writing Program, and The University of California, Riverside.

He has also worked as a carpenter, pipe maker, window washer, and freelance journalist; has traveled widely; and has lived in England, Israel, and Spain, as well as for a year in a primitive shelter which he built in a giant stump in the Mendocino County redwoods. He now lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, Lucinda, a painter and film maker (Featured Artist in SHJ-14).

And More...

• From William Luvaas: The TNB Self-Interview (The Nervous Breakdown, September 21, 2016):

“...Tommy is writing a novel about his alter ego, super rich and confident business mogul V.C. Hoffstatter, who emerges from [the] pages of Tommy’s novel to harass him.”
You’re saying Hoffstatter is Tommy’s creation, not yours? It’s a novel within a novel?
“More like a novel invading a novel. Then we learn that Hoffstatter’s wife has actually written Tommy’s story in her own best-selling novel Under The Hollow Sky. It’s a total hash up. By the end we have no idea—I don’t, anyway—who is writing what or whom. No idea which is the ‘fictive reality’ here and which is illusion.”

William Luvaas Discusses His Novel with Suzanne Lange on “A Novel Idea,” KRCB podcast, Sonoma County (3 September 2016)

Consequences Be Damned: Beneath the Coyote Hills by William Luvaas, an interview/review by Elan Barnehama in The Huffington Post (2 September 2016)

Apocalypse Now, Duff Brenna’s review of Ashes Rain Down: A Story Cycle by William Luvaas, in SHJ-7 (Spring 2013)

Heat Wave, a short story by William Luvaas in SHJ-3 (Spring 2011)

Other Writings and Readings at the author's website

[In Beneath the Coyote Hills,] Luvaas weaves elements of other genres into the narrative, such as slipstream and poetry and even
the sci-fi trope of a boy and his dog, revealing this work in the final analysis as a complex bricolage, a marvelous literary stew
which illustrates perfectly how the artist ‘shapes the beautiful
and the useful out of the dump heap of human life.’ *

— From Clare MacQueen’s review on Amazon,
September 2016, “Where the Mind’s Scribbling Ends”

* Quotation describing what artists do, by Claude Lévi-Strauss,
social anthropologist and key figure in the structuralist school of thought


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury