Steven Mayfield

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Steven Mayfield, a past recipient of the Mari Sandoz Prize for Fiction, began his literary career in 1971. After a short stint as a professional writer, he attended medical school and more than 20 years elapsed before his fiction once again appeared in print. Along the way he authored or co-authored dozens of scientific publications, honing his skills as a writer and editor until the stories in Howling at the Moon began to surface. He holds bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska , received post-doctoral training at the University of Iowa and Brown University, and was on the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine before settling in Boise, Idaho where he was a neonatologist until returning full-time to writing in 2004. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and two spoiled mutts. A trilogy, Delphic Oracle, is completed and seeking a home. It consists of a 62,000 word novel, a 42,000 word novella, and a 78,000 word collection of five short stories, all taking place in the fictional town of Delphic Oracle, Nebraska. Mayfield is currently at work on a new novel, A Ghost's Tale.



BY Steven Mayfield • POSTED ON Oct. 24, 2023

In the early 20th century, the citizens of a former gold rush town concoct a scheme to save their homes in Mayfield’s novel.

The once-thriving gold mining town of Paradise, Idaho now has a diminishing population and a big problem: the approaching 1920 census. The combination of the gold rush cooling, the Spanish Flu, and a raging war in Europe has reduced the town’s population to fewer than 125 total residents—the official threshold for town incorporation, as millionaire politician Gerald Dredd is keen to remind them. Under the threat of losing their homes, the town council members band together to bring new people in. Led by former madam Maude Dollarhyde, her mixed-race granddaughter, Bountiful (a brilliant teacher recently returned from Washington, DC), former prospector “Goldstrike,” and the local saloon owner, Arnold Chang, they come up with the brilliant idea of selling four of the town’s abandoned mansions for a penny each to prospective buyers who will agree to restore them—and, more importantly, stay in town, at least until the census is taken. After going through many applications, the town welcomes the arrival of a theatrical family troupe, a household of excommunicated Mormons, an electrical engineer, and a handy lawyer with his wife and child (in case they need to fight their case in court). Little do they know, at least one of those newcomers is a mole sent by Dredd to sabotage their plan. What follows in Mayfield’s brilliant, well-rounded, fun novel is a twisty mix of murder, comedy, romance, and history. With plenty of humor (“folks will come up here to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. We’ll be like Switzerland. Once rich folks have made their nut, they always want to live in Switzerland”)and a narrative that follows a cast of endearing characters as they fight for the life of their beloved town, the story has a true sense of community, making it impossible not to root for its quirky heroes and against the dastardly villains.

A delightful romp with memorable characters.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781646034000

Page count: 322pp

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023



BY Steven Mayfield • POSTED ON Oct. 11, 2022

A comical, character-driven novel focuses on a Nebraska town.

Delphic Oracle, Nebraska, used to be called Miagrammesto Station. That changed when a con man named July Pennybaker came to town in the 1920s. At the age of 27, July had already seen a lot in life. After he stole money from the Mafia in Chicago, he fled to Nebraska, where he was discovered by a lovely young woman named Maggie Westinghouse. Although Maggie was suspicious of this apparent vagabond who managed to talk like a “college professor,” the two ultimately formed a couple. With the help of one of July’s friends who posed as a faith healer, Maggie became the Delphic Oracle. People traveled from miles around just to see her. July realized that despite Maggie’s toughness, grifting was just not in her nature. The two fell in love; yet, under such circumstances, could it last? The narrative skips back and forth to modern times when the town of Delphic Oracle is a hub of activity. While sometimes the action is on the baseball field, several folks embark on spiritual quests. The narrator tells it all from an oddly lenient correctional facility. Although events and characters lend themselves to the fantastical (a man who teaches poetry is named Byron Emerson), Mayfield’s story is full of heart. Some occurrences, such as a man getting his arm stuck while attempting to change the battery in his truck, may feel like a stretch. Yet readers will manage to empathize with this man as he stands there at one point dreaming that he can fly, soaring “into an azure sky.” Other scenes can overdo the rural hokeyness. Someone at a local baseball game constantly chanting “Hey battuh, hey battuh, hey battuh” and “Swing battuh” is no more humorous than it sounds. Nevertheless, this place where one woman holds “respect for God and Ouija boards roughly equivalent” becomes engaging in its own quirky way.

A thoughtful, zany rendition of small-town life.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64603-292-1

Page count: 298pp

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022



BY Steven Mayfield • POSTED ON April 1, 2020

The appearance of an ocean blob causes folks in a small seaside town to believe that they are all rich in this comic novel.

On the first day of summer vacation in 1934, a mysterious and malodorous blob washes up on the beach of Tesoro, California. Ten-year-old Connor O’Halloran manages to reach the lumpy mass even before the local lighthouse keeper, thus establishing his claim over it—though just what it is he doesn’t know. “The mass was large—as broad as the base of a giant redwood tree and nearly as tall as me,” remembers Connor, now narrating the story as an elderly man. “It smelled of manure and barnacles and was certainly the most disgusting object I had ever encountered.” The lighthouse keeper tells him it’s ambergris—a valuable discharge from whales used by the perfume industry—and that it may well be worth millions. News of the find quickly makes its way through the seaside town that the O’Halloran family, which includes Connor’s mentally ill mother, Mary Rose, and his 6-year-old brother, Alex, is rich. The generous Connor decides that he will share the wealth with the town—it’s the height of the Depression, after all—and the citizens of Tesoro immediately set about figuring out how to sell the thing. When town miser Cyrus Dinkle offers lines of credit to all the families so that they can start spending their money now, a buying spree of epic (and opulent) proportions begins. Connor hopes that his share of the profits may be used to finally get a good doctor to end his mother’s bouts of mania and depression. But when he discovers that his mound of ambergris is actually mostly sewage, Connor and a few trusted others—who dub themselves the Ambergrisians—must figure out a way to prevent Dinkle from bankrupting the entire town.

Mayfield’s novel has a wonderful tall tale quality, matched perfectly with its semifantastic, semibelievable pre–World War II American setting. Though the premise may sound middle grade, the mannerly prose style of the elderly narrator tips the story into the realm of adult literary fiction: “Every boy has a friend with an older brother happy to introduce an innocent younger sibling and his pals to pornography. Mine was Webb Garwood, whose brother Tuck had already initiated our education with a library of postcard photos depicting Rubenesque women and hairy men engaged in naked Greco-Roman wrestling.” There is a warmth and energy to the author’s depiction of his characters, particularly the town midwife, Miss Lizzie Fryberg, who becomes Connor’s mentor in his schemes. Likewise, Tesoro’s population of oddballs and colorful personalities means that someone intriguing is always entering or exiting the scene. There are a few moments when the pacing lags or the prose becomes slightly too self-indulgent, but generally, the story moves with a purpose. Readers looking for a slightly stylized yarn of small-town drama will find much to enjoy in this charming book.

A whale of a tale concerning a boy who tries to lift everyone’s spirits.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64603-004-0

Page count: 256pp

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2020



BY Steven Mayfield • POSTED ON April 29, 2010

Ineffectual, exuberant cries of protest are among the many ripostes to life’s absurdities in this scintillating collection of stories.

The conundrums in which Mayfield’s characters find themselves run the gamut from loveless marriage to familial die-off to disappointment on a truly epic scale. In the mordantly funny title story, a man arrives at his mother’s funeral only to be presented with a coffin containing the wrong corpse—and ends up mourning the beatific stranger more than he does his own flesh and blood. In the moving “Reliquary,” a husband who has devotedly tended his paralyzed wife for 20 years (her only means of communication are blinks and expressive eye rolls) suddenly discovers that he’s the dependent partner in the relationship. “The Next One” finds a young white schoolteacher in New Orleans in over her head when she reaches out to a troubled black student. And the simultaneously sardonic and elegiac “Which Way’s Ireland?” imagines Charles Lindbergh’s luckless double: a young flier who sets out on a solo crossing of the Atlantic in 1927, only to wind up in the most humiliating possible place. The author moves confidently across a range of registers, from the raucous cynicism of “Food Chain,” which casts Manhattan as a state of nature where everyone is both predator and prey, to the fraught pathos of “Mothers,” in which the parents of a pregnant teen, anxious that she arrange her life perfectly, pressure her to have an abortion. He writes with a deadpan wit and a limpid prose style shot through with flashes of eyeball-searing imagery. (“…head quivering, his slack-jawed mouth fixed in a jagged cracked egg of a grin as if he’s about to add a ha-cha-cha-cha like Jimmy Durante,” reads his unforgettable thumbnail of a New York street weirdo.) More than that, Mayfield has a sharp psychological acuity that really gets under the skin of his characters as they mount sublimely inappropriate responses to tragi-comic predicaments.

A superbly wrought set of tales, as beguiling as a midnight serenade.

Pub Date: April 29, 2010

ISBN: 978-0975331415

Page count: 146pp

Publisher: Mount Parnassus Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2010

Awards, Press & Interests

Day job


Favorite author

Sinclair Lewis, Kurt Vonnegut, Muriel Spark

Favorite book


Favorite line from a book

He looked as if he might murder me and he did. (From Ghost Stories by Muriel Spark)

HOWLING AT THE MOON: Honorable Mention, San Francisco Book Festival, 2010

HOWLING AT THE MOON: Finalist, USA Books "Best of 2010", 2010

Howling at the Moon, 2010

Howling at the Moon, 2010

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