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The Pale Light of Sunset

Lee Maynard
October 2009
HC/J  978-1-933202-42-6
PDF  978-1-933202-72-3

Purchase the Kindle Edition at Amazon



Real people don’t run away from. . .But real people can run away to. . .

In 1936, a child is born in the mountains of West Virginia. In 2005, he scatters his past into a deep canyon of rock. The Pale Light of Sunset: Scattershots and Hallucinations in an Imagined Life illuminates the journey of this boy, a constant tourist and visitor, who travels everywhere, yet belongs nowhere. Through tales of swarming hornets and swinging bullies, love affairs with the land and its people, and near death by frostbite and heat stroke, the absurd hilarity and clear, tender voice found within this story navigates a surreal road paved by the experiences of one man.

Author of nationally acclaimed and locally banned novels Crum and Screaming with the Cannibals, Lee Maynard details an imaginative account of his journey through seventy years of hard living—from West Virginia, to Mexico, the Arctic Circle, and beyond. Scattered and hallucinated, The Pale Light of Sunset grants a long-awaited glimpse into the bent condition of the Maynard brain.

2009 New Mexico Book Award Finalist


  • Foreword
  • 1936 The Parlor
  • 1941 The Shotgun
  • 1942 Hornets 1
  • 1943 Thanksgiving
  • 1944 Delivery Boy 1
  • 1945 Delivery Boy 2
  • 1946 Sometimes It Will Be Harder
  • 1947 Hornets 2
  • 1948 My Mother’s Coat
  • 1949 Mean Rafe
  • 1950 The Constable
  • 1951 Tommy Hatfield 1
  • 1952 Tiny Rooms
  • 1953 The Train
  • 1954 Saying Goodbye
  • 1955 Booze Runner
  • 1956 Dark Swimmer
  • 1957 What Am I Doing Here? 1
  • 1958 Accounting Class
  • 1959 Final Exam
  • 1960 Midnight Pub
  • 1961 The Dude
  • 1962 Whorehouse
  • 1963 The Journal
  • 1964 Portland in the Night
  • 1965 Faggot
  • 1966 Dying in San Francisco
  • 1967 Helen 1
  • 1968 Ruker and the Bikers
  • 1969 Toy Beggar
  • 1970 Reunion
  • 1971 Horizon
  • 1972 The Patience of Dead Men
  • 1973 Low Rider
  • 1974 The Buick
  • 1975 The Typewriter
  • 1976 Tommy Hatfield 2
  • 1977 The Funeral of Cousin Elijah
  • 1978 Ice
  • 1979 When Will They Find Me Out?
  • 1980 Hornets 3
  • 1981 The Prayer Horse
  • 1982 The Gift
  • 1983 Lowenstein 1
  • 1984 What Am I Doing Here? 2
  • 1985 Scorpion
  • 1986 Dream World
  • 1987 Helen 2
  • 1988 Morning Prayer
  • 1989 A Mark on the Wind
  • 1990 The Button
  • 1991 Boy on a River
  • 1992 Arrow in the Light
  • 1993 Lowenstein 2
  • 1994 Peyote
  • 1995 Belonging
  • 1996 Lujan’s Place
  • 1997 Dinner with Carmen
  • 1998 A Finding in the Sky
  • 1999 Arctic Circle
  • 2000 Fantasy World
  • 2001 Friendship
  • 2002 A Death in the Mountains
  • 2003 Where I’m From
  • 2004 The Mountain
  • 2005 Journal’s End


Lee Maynard was born and raised in the hardscrabble ridges and hard-packed mountains of West Virginia, an upbringing that darkens and shapes much of his writing. His work has appeared in such publications such as Columbia Review of Literature, Appalachian Heritage, Kestrel, Reader's Digest, The Saturday Review, Rider Magazine, Washington Post, Country America, and The Christian Science Monitor. Maynard gained public and literary attention for his depiction of adolescent life in a rural mining town in his first novel, Crum, and received a Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts to complete its sequel, Screaming with the Cannibals.

An avid outdoorsman and conservationist, Maynard is a mountaineer, sea kayaker, skier, and former professional river runner. Currently, Maynard serves as President and CEO of The Storehouse, an independently funded, nonprofit food pantry in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received the 2008 Turquoise Chalice Award to honor his dedication to this organization.

Read More about Lee Maynard.


"The Pale Light of Sunset features Maynard’s most lyric and elegant prose and his most complex vision. Miniature masterpieces like “Arrow in the Light” and “A Death in the Mountains” chilled my skin in awe. Throughout the novel, Maynard’s trademark outrageousness is deepened by a tender vulnerability. I was moved by the poignancy and gentleness of the childhood chapters; I was breathless during the suspense and hard violence of those recounting the protagonist’s prime. But the novel is at its most rare and its most profound when it climaxes in the perspective of maturity and its celebration of the beauty and fragility of life."
Ann Pancake, author Strange as this Weather Has Been

"That old outlaw author Lee Maynard has really gone and done it this time. His new Tall Tale of a memoir/novel, The Pale Light of Sunset, is jam-packed with more action and adventure, more outlandish characters and bizarre events, more outrageous behavior, more laughs and tears, not to mention more pure poetry and heartfelt emotion than any book I have read in recent memory. And it is all rendered in language often so luminous that whole paragraphs seem to simply lift up off the page. Maynard says somewhere in here that we search all of our lives, some of us, for that one great thing that makes us who we are. Let me tell you folks, for Maynard that great thing is this deeply spiritual journey of a book, which is basically a roadmap of his never-ending quest for that elusive place in the heart we call home."
Chuck Kinder, author Honeymooners: A Cautionary Tale and Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life

"If the slices of life Lee Maynard offers in this book have been lived by the writer, well bless his heart, as we West Virginians are wont to say. If they are a product of his extraordinary imagination and perspicacity, well bless his heart even more. In any event, you can't go wrong reading these servings of pure genius from a native writer who will remain a West Virginian no matter where he goes."
Dave Peyton, The Charleston Daily Mail

"Lee Maynard's vivid and heart-wrenching writing packs a wallop that left me reeling. In The Pale Light of Sunset, Maynard's stories take us on his sometimes harrowing journey from the hills of West Virginia to a mountaintop in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we learn along with him his life lessons. Seldom have I come across a book of short stories that read like such a compelling novel. I couldn’t put it down."
Sandy Johnson, author The Book of Elders, The Book of Tibetan Elders, The Brazilian Healer with the Kitchen Knife and most recently, The Thirteenth Moon

"A superb book. These stories of a lifetime are infused with a wanderer’s soul, a seeker no less spiritual than what we see in the accounts of itinerant Zen monks from medieval Japan. Indeed, The Pale Light of Sunset is just such a narrative of the mind and spirit for our own time. If rural West Virginia is the point of departure and emotional keystone throughout the book, Maynard's internal and external geography is the Great Wide Open of both the planet and the human heart. This book is filled with surprise, humor (sometimes riotous, at other times wry and sly), full-bore old fashioned adventure, violence, mystery, and, finally, tenderness. Lee Maynard is teaching us to pay attention, to live the moments when they come, and savor them forever as the reasons that we are here."
Richard Currey, author Fatal Light and Lost Highway

"Lee Maynard writes better than anyone else I know about how a boy is infused with the rules of American manhood. This new book The Pale Light of Sunset is a fictional memoir– a kind of heightened and imagined life that Maynard describes in the subtitle as Scattershots and Hallucinations in an Imagined Life."
Meredith Sue Willis, author Oradell at Sea

"This memoir is earthy in the best sense. It's haunting. It has miracles. It also has earnest and honest questions and moments of grace."
Marie Manilla, author of Shrapnel

"Lee Maynard's latest book is his best yet."
Dory Adams, author and blogger

"There's nothing pale about Pale Light. It is a powerful work from a mature writer with an uncanny talent. His full-throttle style an powers of description propel you into and along with the story. He raises the bar for future writers sure to be influenced and inspired by his body of work."
Phyllis Wilson Moore, Appalachian Heritage

"...just as scatological, just as punchy (literally), just as colorfully told as Crum."
Douglas Imbrogno, The Charleston Gazette

"...incisive vignettes of a life journey strung together in novel form."
Norman Julian, The Dominion Post

", a combination of tall tale and action movie."
Edwina Pendarvis, Now & Then

"Maynard's short, descriptive sentences and his journalist's eye for details link readers closely to the experiences and the emotions of the Appalachian protagonist. . . . Not for the squeamish, this story of a boy's journey from birth to maturity is told by an eloquent writer steeped in place and in the mountain tradition of storytelling."
Phyllis Wilson Moore, Journal of Appalachian Studies



Watch Lee Maynard reading from this novel: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
Listen to a WV Writers Podcast featuring Lee Maynard.