Brave in Season: Jon Volkmer’s New Novel is a “Damn Good Read”

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Article by Kate Horan <>

When asked to describe his new book in a few words, Jon Volkmer responded with these three words: “damn good read.” Volkmer has been working on his book, Brave in Season, since 2006. Most of the work was done between 2006 and 2012, but he had been retouching it and rewriting it since then. It was recently published on August 29, 2023. The inspiration for his book came from an event that happened in Nebraska in the early 1950s. A group of African-American railroad workers were stationed in the area and there was a baseball game between them and the local farmers and townspeople. Volkmer always found that story charming, and it became the basis for his book.

The writing process did come with challenges. “When I originally wrote the book, I wanted it to be sort of a ‘feel good’ book, you know, a story of race relations that actually turns out good,” said Volkmer. After considering it and working on the book, Volkmer found that this approach was not realistic, and that the book was becoming a bit too much of a fairytale. Noticing this during the writing process, Volkmer recognized that it was up to him to “introduce more realistic incidents of racial misunderstanding and oppression and racism into the book and to develop more conflict.”

As a white writer, approaching the subject of racism and racial oppression was difficult for Volkmer. “I haven’t experienced it, and some people say probably I shouldn’t even write about it,” he said. While he was doing the research for the book, he was fortunate to have one of the people he interviewed, an African-American railroad worker from the South, that challenged Volkmer on that question. Volkmer includes a version of their conversation in his book where the interviewed African-American railroad worker presses the writer to think about “what right does he have to tread in this ground.” Volkmer finds it important that he includes a consideration of that in his book, and he added, “But, of course, writers, historically, have always written about things they don’t know about” and that they “have had to go on to imaginative areas.”

Volkmer explains that one of the major themes in the book is the idea that some people think that they are different, or that their place is different, or that their clan is different. Volkmer explains that “in the book it’s called ‘Otoe County exceptionalism,’ where one of the characters, a preacher and good guy, proposes that the heritage of this area, which was part of the underground railroad 100 years earlier, made it a kind of a special place and a place where racism wasn’t as likely to be nurtured.” He asserts that this is an open question in the book, as there are indeed racist actions and happenings that take place.

“One of my readers so far called the book a love letter to Julian, Nebraska, and it is kind of that. It is kind of a celebration of this small area, this southeast corner of Nebraska where I grew up. I’m from there and I’m proud of that and it’s kind of a celebration of that,” said Volkmer. He emphasizes that it has been a long time coming and that he is really glad that the book is now out and available, and he hopes that people will read it.

Rand Richards Cooper, author of The Last to Go, calls Brave in Season a “deeply rewarding novel” and questions if it is “possible for a writer to be heartfelt, funny and warm while also providing a stark portrayal of American racism?” He concludes that this is exactly the “magic trick” that Jon Volkmer has pulled off with his new book.

JB Manheim, author of The Deadball Files series, comments that Brave in Season is “a richly textured and engaging narrative that tells a multilayered story. This book needed to be written, and deserves to be read.”

Get a copy of the book today: Also, check out Jon Volkmer’s website ( for a free sample of Brave in Season.