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In 'Scavengers,' it's 'Little House on the Prairie' meets 'Mad Max'

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Writer Michael Perry on his rural Wisconsin farm.
Writer Michael Perry on his rural Wisconsin farm.
Euan Kerr / MPR News

Writer Michael Perry's elevator speech for his new novel "The Scavengers" goes something like this: It's "Little House on the Prairie" meets "Mad Max."

A chicken takes a prominent role in the book --  aimed for middle-schoolers. It's a departure for Perry, who is best known for his best-selling humorous memoirs. He initially resisted writing a novel for youth.

"The Scavengers"
The cover of Michael Perry's "The Scavengers"
Courtesy Harper Childrens

Maggie, the main character in "The Scavengers," lives in a dystopian future where climate change has ravaged the landscape, and most of the population has retreated into enclosed Bubble Cities. 

But some, like Maggie and her family, choose to live outside, away the control of government and big corporations.

They sell things they scavenge from a dump and fighting off mutant solar bears and zombie-like 'GreyDevils' who roam the landscape.

It's an adventure tale with a lot of humor and some environmental issues to chew on.  

Perry doesn't present these issues as black and white -- just something worth considering. 

"And so if someone reading this gets helpful messages, I welcome that. But I hope its by osmosis and not overt," he said.  

A small "w"

Perry describes himself as a self-employed writer with a small "w."  

But that small "w" covers a lot of things: He's a memoirist -- including a book on the joys and challenges of keeping chickens, called "Coop." There was also "Truck: A Love Story." 

Between books and magazine articles, he writes columns and hosts a radio show. He is also lead singer with his band "The Long Beds." The band once boasted Justin Vernon -- now better known to many as Bon Iver -- on guitar.  

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"So somewhere in there, between writing magazine articles, books, speaking, doing little one-man humor shows and playing a little music here and there, we can make a living," Perry said.

Perry will launch "The Scavengers" Tuesday in an event at Northwind Book and Fiber in Spooner,  Wis. He'll then read at the Miller Hill Mall Barnes and Noble in Duluth Wednesday evening.