Buddha Was a Cowboy

THE BOOK: Buddha Was a Cowboy.

PUBLISHED: 2022 (September 13)

THE AUTHOR: Junior Burke

THE EDITOR: Deborah Robertson

THE PUBLISHER: Gibson House Press

SUMMARY: A progressive, alternative university is targeted for takeover by conservative forces in this satiric tale.

Aaron Motherway is a Hollywood screenwriter who, while recovering from a traffic accident, is tapped to run the arts program at Parami University, located in Pearl Handle, Wyoming. What Aaron doesn’t know is that he is being set up to fail by various duplicitous forces, and he finds himself immersed in a culture war infused with sexual misconduct, embezzlement, political opportunism, and potential mass murder, played out in a climate of comedic dysfunction and absurdity.

His charming and able assistant has his back, fending off a demented poet and venomous colleagues. And he gains the loyalty of some very challenged students—a murderer, a lobster wrangler, and an apostate. But there are surprises in store for Aaron before the story reaches a dramatic conclusion.

Buddha Was a Cowboy is a metaphor for many of the issues engulfing and dividing America today, and a darkly humorous take on the current cultural landscape.

THE BACK STORY: I’ve always been enthusiastic about campus novels, especially the English ones, such the hilarious Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, and was aiming at some contemporary version of that. Gore Vidal once said that a writer in America can either make a living in academia or in show business. Since there are so many

writers who teach to support their writing habit, you’re still going get plenty of campus novels. Hollywood’s different in that there are many writers, but most don’t concern themselves with literature. Novels about Hollywood that are truly literary are more from a bygone era.

WHY THIS TITLE: I wanted to further address the gulf that has taken up residence in the American culture. My previous novel, The Cold Last Swim, concerned itself with the seeds of that estrangement (in the 1950s, juxtaposing James Dean and Ronald Reagan) and Buddha Was a Cowboy explores it from a more current perspective. While Buddha Was a Cowboy seems contemporary, it’s actually a period piece, largely taking place between 2014 and 2015. Many rustlings were occurring in those days before the changes became even more drastic and profuse.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It says something pertinent about the current cultural landscape and it’s funny as hell.


“Author and songwriter Burke (The Cold Last Swim, 2020) founded the low-residency MFA program at Naropa University and his portrayal of academic arts administration is both good-natured and razor-sharp. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of Julie Schumacher (Dear Committee Members; The Shakespeare Requirement), Jane Smiley (Moo), and Tom Perrotta (Tracy Flick Can’t Win).”—Booklist

Praise for The Cold Last Swim:

“Set in an alternate-timeline version of golden-age Hollywood, it kicks off with James Dean shooting Ronald Reagan during a live TV broadcast in 1954 and gets stranger from there.”—Chicago Reader

“Entertaining and surprising all the way to the end.”— Alex Cox, director-writer of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, and author of The President and the Provocateur: The Parallel Lives of JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald

AUTHOR PROFILE: Junior Burke‘s The Cold Last Swim (Gibson House Press, 2020) was one of five finalists for a Sidewise Award, the annual prize for novels of Alternate History. His short fiction was included in the anthologies Litscapes: Collected US Writings 2015 and Collectibles, published in 2021. Burke’s novel Buddha Was a Cowboy is forthcoming September 13, 2022. He lives Out West.


(https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/buddha-was-a-cowboy-junior-burke/1140794405?ean=9781948721189) and Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Was-Cowboy-Junior-Burke/) both offer samples and excerpts once the book has been published.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Find or order through your local independent bookstore via Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781948721189

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Find it at Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/buddha-was-a-cowboy/9781948721189

PRICE: $16.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Author website: https://juniorburke.com/ Publisher website: https://gibsonhousepress.com/

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.

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