48 States

THE BOOK: 48 States: A Novel.


THE AUTHOR: Evette Davis.

THE EDITOR: Cassandra Dunn.

THE PUBLISHER: Flesh & Bone.

In 2014, Davis founded Flesh & Bone to publish the first two installments of the urban fantasy series the DARK HORSE TRILOGY. 48 States is the first standalone novel to be published. The third and final installment of the Dark Horse Trilogy, yet to be named, is due to be published in early 2023. One day she hopes to expand the work of this independent press to include other female science fiction and fantasy writers — helping find a home for authors whose work embodies the spirit of Flesh & Bone, which is about getting to the heart of the matter.

SUMMARY: What if trusting a stranger is the only way to save your life?

Widow, single mother, and Army veteran Jennifer “River” Petersen works as a truck driver in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota. Forced to enlist after her father’s death, the lines of River’s life have been redrawn, much like the United States’ map has changed. Living in a motel room with nothing but her books and a Glock handgun for company, River is weeks away from returning home when an injured man standing in the middle of the highway upends her plans. From the moment he encounters River, Finn Cunningham knows he must conceal his identity or be left for dead. His deception draws them into a megalomaniac’s deadly conspiracy to ignite a civil war and overthrow the government. If River and Finn want to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another and themselves.

Perfect for readers who loved Station Eleven, California, and Gold Fame Citrus, 48 States is a one-of-a-kind dystopian thriller about the dangers of extremism and the power of love and forgiveness. When author Evette Davis is not writing novels, she co-manages San Franciscobased public affairs firm. 48 States is her third novel, and she’s currently at work finishing the Dark Horse trilogy, with the final book slated for publication in 2023. Her work has also been published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

THE BACK STORY: I may be dating myself but there is a funny scene in the movie Working Girl where the young assistant has to prove she didn’t steal a business plan and is asked how she came up with the idea. In response, she pulls out a collection of seemingly random news clippings that when strung together in her mind, made the plan work. 48 States is similar. I’d interviewed a panel of women veterans for a literary festival around the same time I was reading about the explosion of fracking in North Dakota. National Geographic had a feature about people who had left their homes and gone to North Dakota for work and one of them was a mother who left her family behind to drive a haul truck because the pay was so much better. I’d also been reading about Japanese Internment camps and had been surprised to know that the entire effort to relocate Japanese Americans had been done by Executive Order… that was the genesis of how I came to write 48 States. The book took five years and went through several major plot revisions, but I became interested in the issues of executive power, domestic refugees and of course women who transform themselves.

WHY THIS TITLE?: First there is the obvious, the novel is set in a world where two states, Wyoming and North Dakota, are wiped from the map of the United States of America in order to become energy territories… therefore, leaving only 48 states. The second part of the thinking, which is admittedly way more obscure, is that there are many different “states of being” and this book covers a number of them.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? At its core, this book is about the power of forgiveness, for ourselves and others and I think that is a universal topic we all deal with as humans. It just happens to be wrapped up in a thriller about the environment and extremist politics. I think readers, especially women will like the strong characters and the fast-paced dialogue.


“The concept of 48 States is original, and sets the story apart from others
of its genre. [It’s] an intriguing, futuristic story that was yet to be told until now. The book does raise very interesting concepts about governing, duty, and self-love, all of which come across artfully in the narrative and serve to develop the characters from beginning to end.” — The Book Life Prize.

AUTHOR PROFILE: What I like to share about myself is that I didn’t come to writing novels early in life. I’m not an MFA graduate. I have always loved reading and writing. I’ve had a book in front of my face one way or another since I was able to read. Other kids won awards for sports, I won them for the number of books I read from the library. I started my career as a newspaper journalist because I have an overwhelming sense of curiosity about people. But I left journalism to work in politics in Washington DC and then I left DC to come back to the Bay Area and eventually I started my own Public Relations firm. I’ve had my “day job” for 23 years and along the way been married, and raised a daughter who is off to college this fall. But not long after my daughter was born, I felt like something was missing in my life and I started writing. That writing became the novels I’ve since published. Not coincidentally, the characters in my books are usually female and often going through major transformations where they come to understand themselves and their skills.

So I guess I’m saying I write what I know…I know that women are often transforming themselves and finding the source of their power. I’m at a point now in my life where I feel very powerful intellectually and it’s a pleasure to sit down and see where my imagination takes me. I hope that joy creates books other people want to read and can relate to. I’m the author of 48 States as well as Woman King and Dark Horse, the first two installments of the Dark Horse Trilogy. In 2014 I founded Flesh & Bone, an independent publishing imprint, which I hope will one day publish other authors’ work. In 2015, DARK HORSE garnered an honorable mention at the San Francisco Book Festival. In 2017, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library named me a Library Laureate, and in 2021, 48 STATES was named a runner-up in the San Francisco Writers Conference Writers Contest. Generally I split my time between San Francisco and Sun Valley, Idaho, with my husband, daughter, and dog. For more information, visit http://www.evettedavis.com, or my Pinterest,
Instagram and Facebook pages, or follow me on Twitter @SFEvette.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: My books transmit a strong dislike for extreme politics – on both sides of the aisle. If I can accomplish anything, I hope it’s to help people remember that listening to ideas, understanding other people’s points of view is not dangerous. It’s also OK to forgive someone for making a mistake. We are human beings and humans need love, understanding and compassion to thrive.

SAMPLE: see end of doc for sample.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Borderlands, Green Apple, Books Inc.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon (Kindle and Paperback), Barnes and Noble (nook and paperback), Kobo (eBook), Apple Books (eBooks).

PRICE: Print $14.99; eBook $7.99.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: fleshandbonepublishing@gmail.com
Instagram: @evette1364
Facebook page: Evette Davis

Chapter 1

River struggled to shut the bar’s door against the howling wind. Winter was a bitch in the territory, but at least her heavy gear kept her warm. Twenty pairs of eyes followed her as she entered the bar. She tracked the stares out of the corner of her eye as she walked towards an open seat, never acknowledging the scrutiny. She sighed with relief as she eased on to one of the barstools. She must have traveled up and down the highway a dozen times in her rig tonight, with nothing but natural gas flares for company. Up and back again until her arms ached from dragging the hoses in and out of the holding tanks. She could feel her back stiffening up. But it was another night without an injury, and more overtime pay in her bank account.

A bar back placed a bowl of freshly made popcorn in front of her. The buttery aroma transported her back to her childhood when jump ropes and sleepovers ruled the day…Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers, let him go, eeny, meeny, miny, moe, my mother told me to pick the very best one… A delivery from the bartender brought her back to the present.

“This is for you,” he said, placing a glass of what was likely tequila—men always sent that, or Jägermeister—in front of her.

“Send it back, Bobby,” River said, pushing the drink away.

“Sure thing,” he said. “If I were you, I’d skip the drink and get out. Most of these guys just got back in town from their shifts.”

“Thanks for the warning,” River said. “I’ve had a long night myself, so please just bring me my usual?”

River watched Bobby walk away to make her drink. If she’d been looking for a lover, he would have been a good choice, with his tight black T-shirts and full sleeves of ink. His right arm was a multi-colored mix of peacocks with gleaming feathers, mermaids, and the rings of Saturn posted mid-bicep. An elaborately inked treasure map covered the other arm, but he never revealed what the prize was. A nose ring dangled from his septum, giving him a menacing air, but it was all a show. He’d come to nurse a broken heart. River wasn’t sure of the particulars, only that he preferred being in the Territory to San Francisco. She reminded him how crazy it was to leave California for such a rotten, dangerous place, but he just laughed and told her “Anywhere can go rotten if you fuck it up bad enough.”

She nodded, knowing only too well that he was right.

“You’re being stubborn, as usual,” Bobby said as he returned with her rum and coke. “I’m going to say it again. Most of these guys just got off their twenty and are ready to party.”

She knew what he meant. Williston, North Dakota served as the main outpost for the Territory. The state had been emptied by forced evacuation and then repopulated with a mix of workers, mostly veterans from the Caliphate War, working on rig crews in twenty-day shifts or hitches. As soon as the shifts ended, the crews came back into town ready to make up for lost time. If you wanted to have a drink and mind your own business, you patronized Outerlands. The other ten or so bars catered to a mix of preferences and price points. With a 20:5 ratio of men to women, Bobby was reminding River to be careful. Women were usually meant for one thing inside the Territory, and it wasn’t for hauling. Still, she was always glad to see the neon sign for Outerlands as she came around the bend in her rig on Highway 85. Its grey concrete floors were worn and pockmarked from years of use. The wood-paneled walls and lack of windows kept it dark inside. But the drinks were strong, and the management favored music from the 1970s. She chose Outerlands
because she liked the name, and because they held a trivia night once a month. A voracious reader, she was good at collecting random bits of information, and usually managed to win a few rounds, especially if the topics involved history and literature. She wasn’t in the mood to be chased out of her only source of entertainment.

“I can handle myself,” River said.

“Maybe,” he said. “But I feel compelled to ask for what must be the one hundredth time, why don’t you get the hell out of here already?”

“And leave all this behind?” River mocked. “Compared to being stationed in France, this is paradise.”

For nearly two years she’d managed to avoid telling him the truth. That her husband had killed himself and left her with a mound of debt and few options except to leave her daughter and work in this God-forsaken wasteland. That at eighty dollars an hour–more than one hundred if she worked overtime–she’d signed the contract to drive a haul truck inside the Territory as soon as they’d offered her a position.

“You know you don’t belong here with all these heathens,” Bobby said.

“Heathens…That’s pretty good,” River replied. “Your Berkeley roots are showing.

Are you referring to their lack of godliness or just a general barbarous nature?”

“Both, and for the record, it was Berkeley undergrad. I studied creative writing at the University of San Francisco,” Bobby said. “Until my scholarship ran out. The government canceled student loans for MFA programs around the time they issued the first list of banned books.”

“Here’s to words and their meanings,” River said, remembering that day. Her mother, a librarian, was outraged that the government ordered books it considered subversive to be pulled from the shelves.

River sensed someone standing behind her. The stench of body odor and solvents invaded her space as he leaned in to speak to her. She breathed through her mouth to avoid the smell.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Don’t you like my gift? Maybe I should’ve sent you what I’m having. Bartender! Bring over another ‘Taste of a Woman.’”

“No thanks,” River said, wanting nothing to do with the bourbon cocktail he was pushing. “I’m not drinking.”

“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” he said, cutting her off. “I see your glass right there.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” River said. “I was about to say I’m not drinking with other people.”

“Well, that’s too bad,” he said. “Because I’ve decided you and I are going to have ourselves a little party tonight.”

“That’s not going to happen,” River said, keeping her gaze straight ahead.

“Oh, come on,” he said. “I can be a lot of fun.”

“Actually, I was just leaving.”

“We can walk out together then,” he said. “Are we clear?”

The majority of the bar patrons, never candidates for charm school to begin with, sensed the promise of violence and turned to watch. Her unwanted visitor grinned, egged on by the spectators, revealing a mouth full of missing and half-broken teeth.

“I promise to be nice,” he said, grabbing River’s newly cropped brown hair. The pain was immediate as he dragged her closer to his rank breath. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be. I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

River nodded as she rose from the barstool. She stomped on his foot, grabbed his other hand, and brought his arm in close, using it as a fulcrum to send him tumbling. The man let out a whimper as his bone snapped. He landed flat on his back with a thud.

River snatched her Glock from the back of her jeans and pointed it straight at his chest.

“If you so much as raise a finger, I will put a bullet through your heart,” River said.

“Are we clear?”

Her attacker nodded, but remained otherwise motionless.

“Good,” she said. “Because I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

River turned back to the bar, grabbed her glass, and finished her drink, catching Bobby’s eye along the way.

“I’ll pay you next time,” she said, heading for the door.

She kept her gun out and did not let her guard down until she was inside the cab of her truck with the engine running. The snap of the man’s forearm echoed in her head as she tried to catch her breath. Two tours of duty in the Army, and she still hadn’t grown comfortable with her ability to inflict pain. It didn’t compute with the images she carried of herself.

Her father’s death, and the poverty it brought, forced her to enlist after high school. Although it had been a welcome distraction from the ache of bitter disappointment, she carried a lingering sense of shame over how easily she’d adapted to the Army, to the physical endurance and, eventually, the feel of a gun in her hand. The preparation for war, the rehearsal to kill, the military’s rhythms and customs, hierarchy, division of labor – all of it brought a sense of organization and certainty that were comforting. Beyond the orderliness, it bore no resemblance to what she’d previously wanted or had known, back when she’d been a different person with a different trajectory. She’d mistakenly believed that her life would be pleasant and filled with possibilities, until it had all been irrevocably altered, like the landscape of the Territory.

River felt safer cooped up in the desert in the Middle East with twenty men and little more than a hole to shit in, than working in the Territory. For almost two years she’d been ignoring incessant offers to buy her a drink, and made sure to engage the flimsy chain on her motel door nightly. Her gun had been a constant companion since arriving.

River thought about switching bars as she drove home. She decided against it. If she saw the rig tech again, the semi-automatic would prove crucial; there would be no fumbling to reload, just a steady supply of bullets in the chamber. If he came for her, she would end it.

There was no penalty for killing a man inside the Territory. For that you would need laws, and the government had signed them all away

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

One thought on “48 States”

  1. Sounds interesting. Not the usual choice for me but I’ve added this one to my wish list. Best of luck with the series. 🙂


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