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Rugby native’s work to be featured in theaters nationwide

By Sue Sitter - | Oct 31, 2020

Larry Watson, author of “Let Him Go,” was born in Rugby.

A suspense-filled story of a North Dakota family written by a Rugby native will reach movie theaters nationwide when “Let Him Go,” starring Kevin Costner and Diane Lane,premiers on Nov. 6.

Larry Watson, who was born in Rugby and grew up in Bismarck, wrote “Let Him Go” in 2013. The novel, which tells the story of the Blackledge family, opens in a fictional western North Dakota town called Dalton in 1951. The story follows retired sheriff George Blackledge and his wife, Margaret, as they travel to Montana to bring their grandson home from an abusive situation created after the death of their son, the boy’s father.

The book contains some violent scenes, which a reader expects after meeting the family who took in the Blackledges’ grandson and his mother. Trailers for the movie hint at violence as well.

Watson’s novel is one of 10 he has published over the past two decades. Many of his stories take place in Montana and the Northern Plains.

In an email to the Tribune, Watson said elements of Rugby sometimes show up in his work.

“Let Him Go,” based on a novel written by Rugby native Larry Watson, premiers in theaters on Nov. 6.

“I have memories of Rugby, but I’m reluctant to share them because I can’t be certain of their accuracy,” Watson said. “We moved to Bismarck when I was five, and as you know, anything we remember from those very early years is likely to be distorted by time, emotion, and imagination. I will say however that my memories of those Rugby years, accurate or not, are happy ones.”

“And,” Watson added, “I’ve made use of some Rugby details in my fiction, where it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not, only that they work in the story. For example, I have a few courthouses in my novels, and they are often based on Rugby’s courthouse (we lived right across the street, just like the Hayden family in MONTANA 1948). But again, I wouldn’t pretend that I described the courthouse as it really is (or was); I described it according to my memory/impression of it.”

“After we moved to Bismarck, we continued to visit Rugby,” Watson added. “My parents had many friends in the town from their years of living there. My grandparents continued to live there.”

Biographical information on Watson’s website says he attended high school in Bismarck and transferred from Bismarck State College to the University of North Dakota, where he received bachelor and master of arts degrees. Watson married his high school sweetheart, Susan Gibbons, in 1967.

Watson also received a Ph.D from the University of Utah’s creative writing program and “an honorary doctorate of letters degree from Ripon College,” the website added. “Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 2004) and the Wisconsin Arts Board.”

“The movie version of my novel LET HIM GO is due to be released November 6. It will be a nationwide release, but of course so much depends on theaters being open – and people being willing to attend,” Watson said of the film premier. “My wife and I visited the set in Canada for a few days of filming, and we appear – very briefly – in a scene. We’ve seen the finished film, and we think it’s terrific.”

Although Watson now lives in Wisconsin and his travels take him to many parts of the country, he said he still thinks of Rugby.

“In the 1990s, my wife and I took the train from our home in Wisconsin to Spokane. We had a sleeping compartment, and I woke up just as the train was pulling into Rugby for one of the scheduled stops. I opened the window shade, and when I looked out I realized I was looking into the backyard of the house where we once lived,” he said. “That was moment that I’ll never forget – a little unreal but moving and wonderful all the same.”

“Yes, the prairie landscapes of North Dakota and Montana (where we had family and visited often) made a powerful impression of me,” Watson added. “I live a block from Lake Michigan now, but the northern plains will always be the terrain that means home to me.”

“Long after we moved from Rugby, my parents continued to subscribe to and read the Pierce County Tribune. It was great to see an email come from that site,” he said.

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