Pavelich, Matt

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ADDRESSES: Home—P.O. Box 403, Hot Springs, MT 59845.

CAREER: Author and attorney.

AWARDS, HONORS: Montana First Book Award, for Beasts of the Forest, Beasts of the Field; Michenor fellowship; Montana Arts Council fellowship.


Beasts of the Forest, Beasts of the Field (short stories), Owl Creek Press (Seattle, WA), 1991.

Our Savage, Shoemaker & Hoard (Berkeley, CA), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS: Author Matt Pavelich is a novelist, short story writer, and attorney from Montana. Our Savage, his first novel, was selected for publication from unsolicited manuscripts submitted to publisher Shoemaker & Hoard—in writer's terms, a stroke of luck and timing akin to winning the lottery.

Danilo Lazich, the book's main character, is a giant—both physically and intellectually. An overlarge baby born in a nondescript village in the nineteenth-century Balkans, Lazich's birth kills his mother, and he grows heartily until he is turned out of the house at eight years old. Allegedly, it is because his father can no longer afford to feed him, but perhaps it is because the preternaturally knowledgeable and precocious child can see clearly through his father's lies.

Lazich matures quickly, finally assuming the identity of a figure from Balkan legend—Vuk Hadjuk, the wolf, a fierce teenage highwayman "who liberates all who cross his path of not only their goods but also their most cherished beliefs," commented Lizzie Skurnick in Washington Post Book World. Among his victims: a priest who suffered a "stained" soul when Lazich informed him "he could never 'do as much in service to God or man as the mercenaries who marched Christ up Calvary,'" as Skurnick explained.

Though his prodigious strength and intellect puts him ahead of the local constabulary and militia at every turn, Lazich is not satisfied with the provincial restrictions of his homeland. Assuming the name Daniel Savage, he travels to Vienna, where he becomes bodyguard for Empress Elizabeth. Wrongly implicated in Elizabeth's violent death, Savage and his new wife Stoja flee to America, finally settling in Rainey, Wyoming, where the couple struggles to make a success of coal mining. When Daniel and Stoja's daughter, Angeline, presents them with a grandchild who will truly be an American, the circle is finally complete—the bloodline has successfully traveled from the old world to the New World of America.

"It is a testament to the excellence of Pavelich's writing that he can form this absurd string of instances into anything as creditable as a story," Skurnick remarked. "His prose has the formal, deliberate cadences of a work in translation without the stuffiness—instead, Pavelich sears each line with acid wit." Booklist reviewer Michael Spinella called the book a "rapturous and remarkable look at both the failing of European power and the settlement of the West in the early twentieth century," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that Pavelich often abandons characters and subplots "before they are fully integrated into the story." A Kirkus Reviews critic concluded that "Readers who can cope with the chaos will be rewarded with a very canny look at the process of Americanization."



Our Savage, Shoemaker & Hoard (Berkeley, CA), 2004.


Booklist, March 15, 2004, Michael Spinella, review of Our Savage, p. 1266.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of Our Savage, p. 57.

Library Journal, February 15, 2004, David A. Berona, review of Our Savage, p. 162.

Publishers Weekly, March 8, 2004, review of Our Savage, p. 48.

Washington Post April 4, 2004, Lizzie Skurnick, "Living Large; The Sprawling, Gigantic Odyssey of a Very Big Man," review of Our Savage, p. T3.

ONLINE, (December 17, 2004).

Shoemaker & Hoard Web site, (December 17, 2004).