Henry Tenbrook wants to preserve the prairie; Everett Pillars want to develop it. When Pillars plows up the virgin soil of The Griefmaker, the stage is set for a conflict that leads to crime and violence.

A gripping read that sucks you in and leaves you wanting more. High-school rivals, Tenbrook and Pillers, find themselves on opposite sides of a barbed wire fence when one decides to plow and develop the native prairie they hunted together as youths. Gurley lays bare a boiling feud pitting preservationist against developer, working man against moneyed power, and old values against new desires. The Griefmaker digs at the edges of our social unrest, turns over new ground in unearthing what motivates people to greed, and what motivates others to love.

George Gurley wrote a column for the Kansas City Star and was Book Review Editor for a number of years. Two books of poetry: Fugues in the Plumbing (BkMk Press) and Home Movies (Raindust Press)…One book of columns (with Peter Simpson) Press Box and City Room (BkMk Press). Two plays: “Cures” and “Indian Givers”, both produced by Park College and directed by Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Gordone. He lives on a farm in Kansas where he and his wife Susan have been working on a native prairie restoration project for 20 years.

The rolling fields of Kansas are the backdrop of this epic tale of rivalry, unrequited love, self-discovery and redemption. Tenbrook and Pillers played football together in school, and as they enter middle-age, they now play a subtle game of chicken, gambling with the women they desire, the land they both cherish, and the mob. At stake is the fate of the Griefmaker, a thousand acre piece of virgin prairie, never broken by a plow. Once owned by Tenbrook’s family, the Griefmaker is now in the hands of Pillars. Tenbrook wants to preserve the prairie; Pillars want to develop it. When Pillars plows up the Griefmaker, the stage is set for a conflict that leads to crime and violence.


For Tenbrook, the Griefmaker is not just a priceless remnant of the tallgrass prairie—it’s also a sanctuary for the soul. Filled with the haunting beauty and wide, brimless skies of Kansas, as well as the gritty pomp of the Caribbean, The Griefmaker lays bare the American struggle for progress and tradition. A story of love, death, and perhaps atonement. Readers who enjoyed John Ford’s Canada, Cormac McCarthy’s Sutree, Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam, and Edna O’Brien’s Wild Decembers will enjoy The Griefmaker.

George Gurley