Justin St. Germain


Barer Literary

literary agent

20 West 20th Street
Suite 601
New York, NY 10011

(212) 691-3513

Michelle Jasmine

publicist, Random House

Son of a Gun

a memoir

“Spectacular … a parable for our time and our nation … if the brilliance of 'Son of a Gun' lies in its restraint, its importance lies in the generosity of the author's insights."

–Alexandra Fuller, The New York Times Book Review

About the Book

Winner of the 2013 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award in Nonfiction

In the tradition of Tobias Wolff, James Ellroy, and Mary Karr, a brave and unforgettable memoir of a mother-son relationship that is also an unflinching account of a murder and its aftermath.

Tombstone, Arizona, September 2001. Debbie St. Germain’s killing in her remote trailer, apparently at the hands of her fifth husband, is a passing curiosity in the local community. But for her twenty- year-old son, Justin St. Germain, the tragedy marks the line that separates his world into before and after. Years later, he is pulled back to the desert landscape of his childhood on a search to make sense of the unfathomable. What made his mother, an ex-army paratrooper, the type of woman who would stand up to any man except the men she was in love with? What led her to move from place to place until finally she found herself in a desperate and deteriorating situation, living on an isolated patch of land with an unstable ex-cop? Justin decides to confront people from his past and delves into the police records in an attempt to make sense of his mother’s life and death. All the while he tries to be the type of man she would have wanted him to be.

Named a Best Book of 2013 by,, Library Journal, BookPage, Salon, and Pima County Public Library; a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; The Arizona Republic/Changing Hands Bookstore Book of the Month for September; an Book of the Week; The New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice

“Gritty, enthralling … St. Germain has created a work of austere, luminous beauty … by the end of the book, you know his mother, even though you never met her. And like the author, you will mourn her forever."

–Julia Keller, NPR

“A visceral, compelling portrait of [St. Germain's] mother and the violent culture that claimed her."

–Entertainment Weekly

“Emotionally raw and beautifully written … a book you won't soon forget."


“Impossible to put down … a raw, compelling read that stays with you beyond the last page."


"Try not to marvel at the bare-knuckle prose, try not to get your heart torn to pieces, try not to feel lost in the scabby, sand-scoured western landscape, try not to fall in love with one of the most beautifully raw, brutally honest memoirs I’ve read—I dare you."

-Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon, The Wilding, and Refresh, Refresh

“There is a sort of gracefulness in the cadences, and a lovely control of rhythm in the sentences, which do justice to the themes of loss and love that are at the center of this memoir. There is also a level of coiled and accurately conveyed emotion, a careful way of telling truth, and an unsparing release of heartbreak. All of these make Son of a Gun compelling and vivid.”

–Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and The Testament of Mary

“Intelligent and compassionate at every step, Justin St. Germain stares down his troubled Tombstone boyhood, from shooting cap guns in the shadow of the OK Corral to piecing together his murdered mother’s final moments. A searing story bravely told.”

–Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn

“At the same time Justin St. Germain tells us a very specific story of loss, he writes about larger issues that engendered and colored that loss: masculinity, violence, parenthood, love, and grief. It’s a great, momentous undertaking. This book is brave, honest, savage, and tender all at once. It broke my heart, and I’m so grateful I’ve read it.”

–Jesmyn Ward, author of Salvage the Bones, winner of the National Book Award

“From an incident of heartbreaking violence, Justin St. Germain has created a clear-eyed and deeply moving meditation on family, geography, and memory, and how difficult it is to find our place in any of them. Son of a Gun is an extraordinary memoir.”

–Kevin Powers, author of The Yellow Birds

Son of a Gun Cover


Justin St. Germain grew up in Tombstone, Arizona, "The Town Too Tough to Die." He attended the University of Arizona and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and Marsh McCall Lecturer at Stanford. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, the Best of the West anthology, and in many other journals, magazines, and anthologies. He teaches at Oregon State University.

author photo
Son of a Gun Cover