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"Fourth of July Creek"

Smith Henderson, "Fourth of July Creek" (Ecco/HarperCollins)

"Fourth of July Creek," a novel written by Hellgate High School and University of Montana graduate Smith Henderson, has won the 2014 Montana Book Award.

The annual award "recognizes literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues," according to organizers.

"Fourth of July Creek" is the debut novel from Henderson, who now lives in Portland, Oregon. 

He tells the story of Pete Snow, a social worker who struggles to help the child of a paranoid backwoods survivalist in the fictional county of Rimrock.

Snow, who veers between a remote Yaak cabin and Missoula, struggles with a fractured family, a runaway daughter and a drinking problem while trying to fend off a conflict between the survivalist and the authorities.

"This debut novel is a timely and unflinching meditation on freedom, community, paranoia, dignity, rugged independence, and the reverberations of brutality and neglect in the lives of the most innocent," according to the news release.

Three other books were cited for honors this year:

"Astoria," (Ecco/HarperCollins) by Peter Stark of Missoula: The adventure and outdoors writer retells the story of the troubled, forgotten westward expedition of John Jacob Astor.

"Peter Stark recreates this pivotal moment in American history for the first time for modern readers, drawing on original source material to tell the amazing true story of the Astor Expedition," the release said.

"Blood Will Out" (WW Norton & Co.) by Walter Kirn of Livingston: The "Up in the Air" novelist and journalist developed a 15-year relationship with Clark Rockefeller, whom he assumed was an East Coast socialite. Like many, he found he'd been duped by a murderous imposter.

"The Ploughmen" (Henry Holt) by Kim Zupan of Missoula: A jailed killer and the deputy entrusted with standing watch develop an unlikely bond that explores their commonalities and differences in the former rodeo competitor's debut novel.

Presentations and a reception with the winning authors will take place on April 8, during the Montana Library Association Conference in Bozeman.

The Montana Book Award was founded by the Friends of the Missoula Public Library in 2001, with winners selected by a committee of individuals representing areas throughout Montana.

Members of the 2014 Montana Book Award committee included Dale Alger, Roundup; Sean Anderson, Kalispell; Mareta Brusett, Jordan; Melody Condron, Helena; Bradin Farnworth, Missoula; Desiree Funston, Missoula; Tamara Miller, Bozeman; and Stacy Walenter, Troy.

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