October 15, 2020

As his new novel The Cold Millions hits the public, Jess Walter reflects on his old books

Spokane author Jess Walter's first novel published since his 2012 New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins arrives in stores Oct. 27 in the form of The Cold Millions. When we chatted with Walter about his new Spokane-set, action-packed historical novel, we had him look back on each of his books that came before. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Dan Nailen

Walter's nonfiction book about the Ruby Ridge standoff between Randy Weaver's family and the federal government.

I really challenged myself to write with the neutrality of a reporter. I was at the [Spokesman-Review] when Ruby Ridge happened. Covered it. Researched how the Weavers arrived at that, researched how the government messed it up, covered the trial and then tried to sell a book for about a year and a half, then took a sabbatical to work on the book, then finally sold it. That would have been the spring of '95 and it came out in the summer of '95. So I sold it, wrote it, and it came out in just this incredibly fast amount of time. I'm weirdly proud of it, although it feels like a different person. A really young, idealistic journalist. I didn't sleep. I used to have a trampoline in the backyard, and I would go to Java Junkies, which was one of the first espresso places, and get what they called a Buzz Bomb. At midnight, to keep working, I would get a Buzz Bomb and do flips just to keep myself working because I knew my deadline was soon. And I didn't know then that you could miss a book deadline. For my book tour, I started on Nightline, Good Morning America. Flew to New York, and I'd never been east of Wyoming. It was so surreal.