The Winter Family

A Novel

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Tracing a gang of ruthless outlaws from its birth during the American Civil War to a final bloody showdown in the Territory of Oklahoma, The Winter Family is a hyperkinetic Western noir and a full-on assault to the senses.

From the 1860s to the 1880s, the outlaws known as the Winter Family roam the harsh frontier, both serving and battling the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens are the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the impassive ex-slave Fred Johnson, and the gunslinging child prodigy, Lukas Riddle. At the centre of this ultraviolent storm is their cold, dandified and golden-eyed leader, Augustus Winter--a man with a pathological resistance to the rules of society and a preternatural gift for butchery.
     From their political thuggery during a Chicago election to their work as bounty hunters in the deserts of Arizona, Winter and his crew follow a grim, borderland morality that plays out, time and again, in ruthless carnage.
     With its haunting, hard-edged style, The Winter Family is a feverishly paced meditation on human nature, violence and the deep contradictions of progress.


High summer night in Oklahoma. Warm winds that smelled of apple blossoms. Now and then a lightning bug winked on and drifted through the air. Quentin Ross caught one in his fist and held it there, with its radiance leaking between his fingers and reflecting in his shallow eyes. For a moment he rolled the lightning bug...
Read More


LONGLISTED 2015 – Scotiabank Giller Prize

“Brutal. Nihilistic. Extreme. Clifford Jackman’s debut, The Winter Family, lit my synapses up like a pinball machine. I joined golden-eyed Augustus Winter and his band of merry sociopaths on their journey through the dying West, civilization squeezing in from every angle–this is a raw, blood-splattered picaresque that I enjoyed immensely. Jackman throws nine kinds of hell at you in this book, unloading with both barrels, and never lets up the intensity.” —Craig Davidson, author of Cataract City 
“Clifford Jackman’s novel somehow manages to be both traditional and eerily unique. Think of it as a combination of High Noon and The Shining.” —Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author of Glorious and The Last Gunfight
“Clifford Jackman uses the adventures of a gleefully nihilistic group of outlaws to tell the story of ‘civilization’s’ implacable march westward. The members of the Winter Family are the advance guard–the thugs who more refined and powerful men send out to batter the world into submission. They burn Georgia for Sherman; they fix an election in Chicago for the young Republican Party; they clear Oklahoma of inconvenient natives for rapacious land barons. If Sam Peckinpah had been a novelist rather than a filmmaker, this is the book he would’ve written: brutal, at times darkly funny, and utterly gripping from the first page to the last.” —Scott Smith, New York Times bestselling author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins

“[M]enacing and cinematic.” —CBC

“This is a high-octane novel that you would expect from Sam Peckinpah or Quentin Tarantino, blood-drenched but allegorical. It is a rampage around the American west through the eyes of a Canadian, which makes this one very special.” —Andrew Armitage, The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

The Winter Family is a philosophical spaghetti western that doesn’t stint on the tomato sauce, served up with flair.” —Quill & Quire (starred review)

“Violent, thrilling and beautiful.” —Greg Hudson, Sharp Magazine

“Jackman’s novel is a blood-soaked historical western covering over three decades of mayhem, from the Civil War to 1900 Los Angeles. . . . The strength of the story is Jackman’s vivid portrayal of men who choose violence and lawlessness as their way of life, and the justifications they create to rationalize their immoral behavior. This is a chilling tale.” —Publishers Weekly

“From the opening page, a vortex of violence rages through the book, leading from Sherman’s March to the Sea to Chicago, Arizona and Oklahoma. . . . Bloodletting as philosophical exercise, and not for the faint of heart.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“Jackman writes well, with great atmosphere, though the cruelty of his characters is so relentless and one dimensional that it borders on banality, and maybe that’s the point. The hard realism and violence, combined with the evocative prose, will intrigue readers of Cormac McCarthy and James Lee Burke.” —Booklist

“This noir Western is a violent rampage through the American West. Canadian author Jackman . . . is a deft hand when describing the world, both physical and social, that the gang moves through. . . . [F]ans of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and James Carlos Blake’s In the Rogue Blood will appreciate this latest entry in the gritty Western genre.” —Library Journal

“[E]xpansive. . . . Jackman builds a great deal of sympathy for the human race, at once ignoble and sublime. . . . If you are a fan of Cormac McCarthy and the new era of Western novel, you will enjoy The Winter Family.” —Melony Carey, Muskogee Phoenix
“[R]iveting.” —Allen Pierleoni, The Sacramento Bee
“[A] crazy, kickass western.” —Craig Davidson, My Bookish Ways
“To call this novel a dark and gritty Western would be a tremendous understatement. . . . I admire Jackman’s storytelling.” —Historical Novel Society