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GHOST DOGS: On Killers and Kin
Now Available in Hardcover

"This may be the best book you’ll read in years."

- The Wall Street Journal  


"To read this book is to touch the pulsing core of what it is to be human.”

Dani Shapiro, author of Signal Fires

"In a conversational style that disguises its structure and solidity, Dubus’ sentences glide on a level pitch before seamlessly dovetailing into the poetically poignant. Within Dubus’ vast heart lies a pugilist intent on defeating his own demons."

—Bill Kelly, Booklist Starred Review

From the literary master and bestselling author of Townie reflections on a life of challenges, contradictions, and fulfillments

During childhood summers in Louisiana, Andre’s grandfather taught him that men’s work is hard. As an adult, whether tracking down a drug lord in Mexico as a bounty hunter or grappling with privilege while living with a rich girlfriend in New York City, Andre worked—at being a better worker and a better human being. 

In Ghost Dogs, Dubus’s nonfiction prowess is on full display in his retelling of his own successes, failures, triumphs, and pain. In his longest essay, “If I Owned a Gun,” Dubus reflects on the empowerment and shame he felt in keeping a gun, and his decision, ultimately, to give it up. Elsewhere, he writes of violent youth and of settled domesticity and fatherhood; about the omnipresent expectations and contradictions of masculinity; about the things writers remember and those they forget. Drawing upon kindred literary spirits from Rilke to Rumi to Tim O’Brien, Ghost Dogs renders moments of personal revelation with emotional generosity and stylistic grace, ultimately standing as essential witness and testimony to the art of the essay.

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (March 4, 2024)

Praise for Ghost Dogs

"Intimate, moving essays.


Dubus III, who also wrote a well-received memoir, Townie, gathers 18 deeply personal essays, all but one previously published, on fatherhood, manhood, family, vocation, and, most of all, love and gratitude. The father of three writes tenderly of his sense of wonder after the birth of his daughter—“those moments of unspeakable grace” holding a newborn—and of his overwhelming fear when his four-week-old son underwent emergency surgery to correct a congenital malformation. The author honors his wife, whom he credits with nurturing his life “of peace and stability and deep fulfillment.” But that life has been hard won. Growing up in poverty, raised by a single mother after his father abandoned the family, Dubus lived in 25 houses throughout his childhood and was bullied as the new boy in town and at school whenever they moved. Angry and defiant, he transformed himself into a muscular fighter with “a short fuse for bad behavior of any kind.” Several essays probe the connection between violence and masculinity—e.g., the irresistible allure of guns and the adrenalin rush of a fight. By the time he was in his 20s, though, the author felt terrified that he was incapable of “truly loving someone, and being loved back.” A relationship with one girlfriend was doomed by unbridgeable differences in money and class: Her wealth, he writes, “created a chasm between us we tried to pretend wasn’t there.” Still, while they were together, she taught him to knit—an act that at first he denigrated as a sign of her privilege, but soon came to value. “It required me to focus,” he admits, “and it allowed me to drift, too.” Although inevitable repetitions occur in pieces written over several decades, the collection melds into a touching memoir."

- Kirkus Review

"Until the publication of his raw 2011 memoir, Townie, Andre Dubus III was known exclusively for bestselling novels like House of Sand and Fog. The 18 emotionally generous and beautifully crafted essays in Ghost Dogs: On Killers and Kin are certain to please the fans of this empathetic writer’s fiction and nonfiction.

Though there’s no organizing scheme to Dubus’ book, the themes of money, family and the writing life predominate. He’s the son of esteemed short story writer and teacher Andre Dubus II, who abandoned 10-year-old Andre and his three siblings to the care of a devoted mother who struggled to provide for them throughout their childhood. His life was shadowed for decades by this impoverished past. This comes to bear on his essay “The Land of No,” in which he describes his challenging relationship with a girlfriend who was the beneficiary of a $2 million trust fund. In another essay, “High Life,” he reveals his ambivalence over a few days of profligate spending he indulged in as the organizer of a celebration for his aunt’s 70th birthday in New York City.

That essay also reflects the centrality of deep family relationships in Dubus’ life. He and his wife Fontaine, a dancer and choreographer, have been married since 1989, a union that’s produced three children. “Pappy” is a warmhearted tribute to his maternal grandfather, who introduced Dubus to the virtues of hard physical labor one steamy summer in Louisiana. In “Mary,” he offers an affectionate portrait of his relationship with his mother-in-law, who lived in an apartment at the Massachusetts home Dubus helped build until her death at 99.

Reflective of Dubus’ passion for writing is “Carver and Dubus.” It’s a touching story of the sole encounter between Dubus’ father and one of his literary idols, Raymond Carver, only a few months before Carver’s death in 1988, and at a time when the younger Dubus was emerging as a writer. As a whole, the essays plumb great emotional depths. Strictly speaking, Andre Dubus III’s estimable gift for words may not be in his DNA, but as this book reveals, it’s at the core of who he is as a human being."

- BookPage

"Novelist Dubus (Such Kindness) expounds in this sharp collection of personal essays on the writer’s life, the vulnerability of loving others, and the passage of time. “The Door” recounts how Dubus’s worries about becoming jaded in fatherhood dissipated during a tense race to get his four-week-old son surgical care for a life-threatening birth defect, with the author’s profound dread over losing his son even driving him to pray despite not believing in God. “All the way to our June wedding, I vacillated between hope and black terror,” Dubus writes in “A Letter to My Two Sons on Love,” which describes how Dubus fell in love with his wife and worried that his passion for her would expose him to “pain and loss and an acute loneliness.” Aside from a noirish essay on Dubus’s brief stint as a bounty hunter in his early 20s, the pieces are largely tender and contemplative, such as when Dubus muses on the relationship between writing and mortality while recalling a quiet 1988 conversation at a literary awards ceremony between his novelist father and Raymond Carver while both were in declining health (“I think of how death is forever stalking the creative writer to get his or her work done, no matter how he or she feels about it”). Dubus’s sinewy prose strengthens his probing meditations on the inextricable relationship between love and loss. Readers will be moved."  - Publisher's Weekly


"Imagine a wooden table. At first glance, it appears ordinary, but the joinery is perfectly hidden. The finish accentuates the grain. It is sturdy and will last lifetimes. It is the work of a master craftsman. Dubus is a master craftsman. He supported himself as a carpenter before he began earning his living with his pen. The personal essays gathered here are framed around family. After a childhood of evictions and continual displacement, the success of Dubus’ third book enabled him to build a house of his own with his own two hands. Dubus eloquently shares the fear, hope, and boundless love of fatherhood as he tirelessly protects his sons and daughter from the violence of his own youth. A similar expansiveness extends to his reflections on his complicated relationship with his dad, the celebrated short-story writer, and his maternal grandfather, from whom he learned the value of a hard day’s work. Dubus philosophically and vulnerably interrogates his conflicted love of his dogs, the pull and danger of owning firearms, and the lingering lure of violence. In a conversational style that disguises its structure and solidity, Dubus’ sentences glide on a level pitch before seamlessly dovetailing into the poetically poignant. Within Dubus’ vast heart lies a pugilist intent on defeating his own demons."

—Bill Kelly, Booklist Starred Review

“Dubus's idea of an essay is tantalizingly simple: tell something important that happened -- to him: suddenly having big money and not knowing quite how to cope with that; about loving his long-divorced parents; about growing up poor and outlasting it; about not loving his dog as much as he worries he should. Here is human life cloaked often in transporting mystery. Dubus possesses a rare and empathetic brilliance.” 

- Richard Ford

"Andre Dubus III is a literary treasure. These tender, elegant essays come to us directly from his battered heart, his noble soul, his powerful reckoning with the legacy of his childhood.  To read this book is to touch the pulsing core of what it is to be human.” 
― Dani Shapiro, author of Signal Fires

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