Hey. I'm Pete. I work with words to connect people and ideas.
In two decades of publishing work, I’ve acquired and edited award-winning books, managed rights, negotiated deals, and made coffee, at publishers large and small. Since 2014, I’ve also been freelance editing, helping writers of every description turn ideas into stories. In between editorial gigs, I’ve taught writing at the University of Alabama, Kent State University, and with the Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project.
I'm also the author of the novel Cuyahoga (Scribner, 2020), which was longlisted for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel and deemed “tragic and comic, hilarious and inventive—a 19th-century legend for 21st-century America” by the Boston Globe. My writing has also appeared in Vulture, GQ, Vice, and elsewhere.
For the long version of my whole deal (my resume), click the "CV" link below.
“Let us have tenderness but also a dash of cussedness and tragedy,” writes Medium Son, the narrator of “Cuyahoga,” Pete Beatty’s debut novel. “All in the manner native to Ohio.”
Who made America? Men made America. Big men. Men like Pecos Bill, who could tame a mountain lion and make a lasso out of a rattlesnake. Or Paul Bunyan, who felled entire forests with one mighty swing of his ax and carved the Grand Canyon by dragging his giant pick behind him.
There are ups and downs and betrayals and upstagings and turns-about and a few disasters of varying sizes; the ending is, in its way, decently biblical. I do not want to give too much away, but I will say that it is not like anything else I’ve ever read,
You surely know the names of Davy Crockett and Johnny Appleseed, but do you know Big Son? Big Son, it is rumored, "rastled" a dozen bears, "drank a barrel of whiskey and belched fire," brawled with Lake Erie for a fortnight and won.
The story of "Big Son," a mythical young man who could knock down trees, wrestle bears and eat more than one thousand pancakes, might never have been told if Pete Beatty had found more documentation about the bridge war between Ohio City and Cleveland in the 1830s.
Among Ohio-born authors, Pete Beatty has achieved the literary equivalent of the triple crown. Not only is Beatty from the Buckeye State - the author is a native of Cleveland currently living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama - but his debut novel, "Cuyahoga," is also set in the Cleveland area in the 19th century.
Ours is a time ripe for tall tales. So Pete Beatty's yarn about two brothers' adventures in an imaginary 1837 Cleveland fits the bill. Neither the archaic speech nor the dubious claims of its characters feel out of place in an era when the simplest fact is questioned and debated ad absurdum.
Cuyahoga, Pete Beatty's debut novel, is a mischievous mash-up of historical fact and revisionist fiction. It's about two orphaned brothers, Medium Son and Big Son, in Ohio City, 1837. Medium Son, the narrator, is a carpenter who makes coffins.
Are there spoilers in this review? One supposes so, but you can’t explain this book without going into its tall-tale nature. Meanwhile, it’s also worth mentioning how much fun there is to be had with Cuyahoga, a lot of which will provoke out-loud laughter. The robust yarn’s patron spirits would include Twain and Charles (True Grit) Portis.
Tall tales require a hearty sense of grandeur. In this exaggerated literary landscape, one thing is certain: bigger is always better. Think back to the tales of Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan. Each of these popular spirits brims with unrivaled strength and maintains a larger-than-life persona.
An improbable, downright preposterous yarn ably spun and a great entertainment for a time in need of laughter.
Beatty's inspired debut is an American tall tale in the 19th-century oral tradition. Living legend Big Son has wrestled forests and rivers into submission. But in Ohio City in 1837, he meets his greatest challenge to date when his true love, Cloe Inches, refuses to be his bride until he proves himself as a provider.
Reader reviews of CUYAHOGA - some five-star raves, some befuddled people, some meanies.
I imagine you are customed to meek and mild trees that do not want correcting. This is a story of the west so it has got western trees. You do not know the manners of our trees. I have told you tha...
A pure joy from start to finish, this wildly imaginative novel spins an American myth on the patterns of Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink or Pecos Bill. Big Son, known universally as Big, and his younger brother Medium Son, yclept Meed, are the protagonists and perpetrators of this bigger-than-life story about early Ohio and the emerging West.
The nonfiction author talks about the inspiration behind Cuyahoga, his first fiction novel, which debuts Oct. 6. Pete Beatty has tapped tall tales for his debut novel Cuyahoga ($27, Scribner), and the deep dive into fantastic, historical fiction pays off.
What we feel about ourselves is more important in many ways than what we know about ourselves, whether in projections of how we wish others to see us despite all obvious appearances or in frustrations in how others fail to truly see what's beyond the surface.
A wonderful panel at the Ohioana Book Festival featuring yours truly and a panel of more articulate and accomplished people.
The "official" launch for Cuyahoga, featuring a chat between Pete and his editor, hosted by Cody Morrison of Square Books.
A great conversation with literary cult hero George Singleton under the auspices of the excellent Hub City Writers Project.
Mark Cecil of A Mighty Blaze talks with Pete Beatty about "Cuyahoga"
A quick podcast singing (speaking?) the praises of Feodor Chin's witty, resonant performance of the Cuyahoga audiobook.
Travis Fortney interviews author Pete Beatty about his novel Cuyahoga, a voicey, laugh-out-loud, postmodern/historical, big-hearted fable about Cleveland, Ohio and Ohio City.
"Writing a novel is like starting a country...."
Writing and Assorted Other Stuff
The saga of the Van Sweringen brothers - railroad tycoons, founders of Shaker Heights, iconic Cleveland weirdos
The Cleveland baseball team just finished a historic, incandescent winning streak. How do you reconcile joyous baseball with a mascot that...looks like this?
A short interview with ATW's Jon Winokur about how I found my writing voice
A weird short story about leaf blowers and fitness and empty downtowns.
Actual testimonies from students I taught. Mostly included for laughs.
The time I watched all of the 30 for 30 movies and ranked them.