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The Butterfly Collector

Publication Date: June 2009


The Butterfly Collector is full of people you know: a beautician, a lawyer, a man with Alzheimer’s who takes his first nightcap at three in the afternoon. But each of these thoroughly knowable protagonists is faced with a situation that causes them to become extraordinary. In these stories, Fred McGavran is both author and investigator, out to prove that every person has at least one really good story to tell.


“A collection of gems. By day Fred McGavran is a highly regarded Harvard-educated lawyer. By moonlight he crafts page-turners that draw on his deep experience with law and life…McGavran’s masterly writing invited comparison with John Grisham. But stir in Stephen King and Kafka–and an eye for the absurd, an ear for dialog and a wicked sense of humor. McGavran ranks as a top lawyer-writer. His abiding concern with moral values reaches into literary traditions that include the best of Melville, Chekhov, and Graham Greene. His stories go down smoothly, but they linger and haunt…These stories are required reading for law-and-lit fans, lawyers with a sense of humor and all devotees of the art of short fiction.”

-Michale H. Hoffheimer

“Fred McGavran’s The Butterfly Collector is sardonic, erudite, and unexpectedly frightening. He will leave you wanting more.”

-P.F. Kluge

“Fred McGavran’s first collection of short fiction, The Butterfly Collector, etches the American haute bourgeoise with satire that stings in carefully observed detail but then predictably swerves into generous invention. The world he works with is O’Hara’s and Updike’s suburbia, mildly Midwestern, citified–but populated by lawyers, priests, occasionally therapists and academics, most of them aging badly, few of them attractive to women. His Dickensian devastation of the law, updated with voir dire, takes turns with magical realism. McGavran writes about memory, often about an unfortunate inability to remember selectively. Things keep coming back-submarines that rise years later to disgorge their dead or, elsewhere, unkillable bears and stags. Oddly dismembered limbs run through his stories, metaphors for what travels uselessly.”

-Britton J. Harwood

“The Butterfly Collector takes one into a kind of nether world in which the seemingly ordinary serves as a doorway to another, stranger dimension. The dead return to life to confound their heirs…well-heeled suburbanites hunt deer with home-made spears across the broad expanses of their lawns…a man retreats into silence when he realizes how colorless his life has been. There is a sense of loss at the core of many of the characters that we meet in these pages but there is also humor and insight!”

-John K. Brackett

About the Author

Fred McGavran

Fred McGavran is a graduate of Kenyon College and Harvard Law School, and served as an officer in the Navy in Vietnam. He practiced law as a litigation partner with Frost Brown Todd LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio, defending psychiatric malpractice cases and litigating business cases. In June 2010 he was ordained a deacon in The Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, where he serves as Assistant Chaplain at Episcopal Retirement Homes. The Ohio Arts Council awarded him an Individual Achievement Award for The Reincarnation of Horlach Spenser, a story that appeared the Harvard Review. Black Lawrence Press published The Butterfly Collector, his award-winning collection of short stories. McGavran won the Writers Digest Popular Fiction Award in the horror category, the John Reid/Tom Howard Contest, the Raymond Carver Award from Humboldt State University, and has placed in many other literary and screenwriting contests. His stories have appeared in Pearl Magazine, Rosebud, Gray's Sporting Journal,, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Harvard Review and other literary magazines and e-zines. His wife Liz is a decorator. Their older daughter Sarah has earned a PhD in Art History at Washington University in St. Louis, and their younger daughter Marian is a paralegal in San Diego. For more information, please go

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