The Artichoke Queen


The Artichoke Queen

Owen Duffy

Available October 2015

Synopsis: Very few know of the important role women played in the early years of car racing. THE ARTICHOKE QUEEN tells the story of Prudence, a young and beautiful hearing impaired woman in the 1950’s. Leaving a troubled home life behind for California, she is thrust into the school of hard knocks, but finds herself drawn to the local car racing scene. Her success there launches her into the regional spotlight, where she becomes a reluctant celebrity and beauty queen, and a dizzying career and romantic relationship ensue.

But Prudence quickly finds herself in over her head: the races riskier, the rewards higher, her romantic life becoming all too complicated, and in an infamously dangerous road race across Mexico - where she is poised for victory and international acclaim - it seems her whole life is finally about to spin out of control.

Shimmering and evocative, tender but tough, THE ARTICHOKE QUEEN is a picture of bygone Americana, back when sex was safe and car racing was dangerous, and captures a groundbreaking woman’s struggle for identity, love, and ultimately, redemption.


ISBN: 978-1-60489-159-1 Hard cover $30.00    Sale $13.00

ISBN: 978-1-60489-158-4  Trade paper $18.95    Sale $7.00

312 Pages

  About the Author: 

Owen Duffy’s fiction has appeared in various journals such as Passages North, New South, Storyglossia, New Delta Review, PANK, and Hawai’i Review. He holds an MFA in writing from Rutgers-Newark and currently teaches and mentors young writers. He lives with his family in Charleston, South Carolina.



 Excerpt from the Book:

Prudence Baylor snuck back in the house at sunrise and dragged her suitcase down the steps. Her eyes burned and her shoulder ached from falling asleep in the car. She was grateful for the discomfort. It kept her looking ahead and not at the time-smoothed banister, the worn red carpet that ran the length of the stairs. Nor the old house itself, which in preceding weeks she wasn’t sure she’d be able to leave when the time came. Out the window a Willamette Lumber truck blasted along the road and suddenly it felt like any other morning and not her house at all, full of all the comforts a person should want, but she no longer did.

She stopped short when she saw her father was up early and already in the kitchen, sitting at the table, listening to the radio. The lights were off and a block of grey daylight reflected off the floor. He was dressed in his chinos and a checkered flannel, his hair smeared over his forehead. His hands were folded and his head bent as if in prayer, but she knew he was just fighting another hangover. As she came and stood in the doorway, she folded her farewell note deep into her palm.

He plucked his cigarette from the ashtray and looked up at her with bloodshot eyes, the pupils like two bottomless wells. “You know I don’t like you taking your mother’s car like that.” He sucked on the wet end of the cigarette, ignoring the suitcase by her feet. “Where do you go all night anyway?”

Prudence touched the cord to her hearing aid, its earpiece plugged in her right ear. “Just for a drive,” she replied, raising the volume knob on the box that was clipped to her skirt. She looked out the kitchen window, where the ’50 Dodge sat in the driveway. A vision of the previous night came to her: its clattering engine, its tires skidding along the wet cinder logging roads. The headlamps trembling as they swept through the forest, as she sped deeper into the mountains than she ever had before.

She’d been driving those unmarked roads for years, a private way of clearing her mind. Last night she’d been gathering the courage to leave home, lost somewhere along the Luckiamute River, when the road ran out. She screamed and hit the brakes. The car shuddered to a stop just feet from the tree line, the engine ticking, tire smoke tumbling over the car. Prudence collapsed there on the seat, her cheeks wet with tears. Awakened under those dripping alders, out where the woods were dark and full of noises that made her heart shake like a rattle.

“Just for a drive,” her father said, stubbing out the cigarette. “Well, it’s an odd thing to do. What if you broke down?” He shook his head, as if at the futility of posing the question to her. “I don’t know anyone who goes out driving God knows where in the middle of the night. Go get drunk in town like everyone else. That I wouldn’t mind.”

“I’m sure you wouldn’t.” She glared at him when she spoke, as even now he was trying to whittle her down to nothing. She straightened herself, squaring her shoulders. “I’m leaving today, like I told you,” she said. Her voice sounded more confident than it ever had in her twenty years. “There’s nothing keeping me here anymore. You’ve seen to that fairly well.”

Her father looked as if she’d just shaken him awake. He leaned forward and set his elbows on the table. “So you’re going to leave your old man behind and head for greener pastures? Well, let me be the one to tell you that there’s nothing out there. Not a God damned thing.”