Tarantulas, Scorpions, and Jackalopes, Oh My!

Tarantulas, Scorpions, and Jackalopes, Oh My!

Posted on April 2 by Dan Dowhal in Fiction, Interview, Recent Releases
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

“Where did you get the idea for your book?” It’s a question authors are asked all the time. Sometimes the conception is so vague and evolutionary that it is difficult to put into words, even for a writer. However, in the case of my new novel, Bury Your Horses, there really was a single, seminal “a-ha” moment. The book’s spark came while I was working on a project for the Hockey Hall of Fame researching North American hockey.

I was blown away when I discovered that there is a rich tradition of minor pro hockey in the American Southwest, going back seventy-five years. Although, as a biased Canadian, I picture hockey being played on frozen beaver ponds, it turns out that it also flourishes amidst the cacti and sagebrush. Head down south and you’ll find current and former teams like the Amarillo Gorillas, El Paso Buzzards, New Mexico Scorpions, Topeka Tarantulas, and my personal favourite, the Odessa Jackalopes.

And thus the idea for a hockey novel was born — but one with a story and location that could have the sort of quirkiness I was looking for, and even a bit of a Western flavour. The rest of the pieces fell into place as the writing unfolded. Thanks to the story’s setting, it became a garden for various seeds of ideas that I had been carrying in my mind, or my clippings file — rattlesnake ranchers, desert mystics, the Great Wall of Mexico, abused women banding together to forge a new life, narcos, polygamist sects, and the psychopathology of concussed athletes.

I also chose to make my main character a veteran hockey goon. Star players may capture the glory, but I’ve always had a weak spot for the grinders and benchwarmers of the sport. The protagonist, Shane “Bronco” Bronkovsky, has spent seventeen years kicking around the NHL as an enforcer, and he has the scars and missing teeth to prove it.

Although Shane has been thrown under the bus by the hockey world and is suffering the effects of years of concussions, he still loves the game. And that’s kind of the point, as exemplified by hockey being played in small arenas in minor Southwestern cities. The big leagues capture the spotlight, but hockey’s also a sport that’s passionately played and enjoyed at the grassroots level in towns all across North America. So, ultimately, Bury Your Horses is meant to be a love song to hockey, albeit an offbeat and unconventional one.

Dan Dowhal

Posted by Dundurn Guest on December 6, 2014

Dan Dowhal


Dan Dowhal is the author of two previous novels, <i>Skyfisher</i> and <i>Flam Grub</i>. Born and raised in Toronto, Dan was drawn to the North, and now lives in Dawson City, Yukon, where he is a fourth-line winger for the Dawson City Gold Diggers.