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It might be some kind of literary record, at least as far as local authors are concerned.

Sid Gustafson, a Bozeman veterinarian, has had two books published this summer, along with two short stories in new collections of literary work.

The plot synopsis of Gustafson's first novel "Prisoners of Flight," (The Permanent Press) sounds a little corny: two 50-ish former Vietnam POWs crash their small plane high in the Montana Rockies, only to find a well-stocked cabin and a pair of college-age twin sisters.

But the story never takes the obvious plot twist. Rather, the tale remains chaste and goes interior, deep inside the mind of protagonist Sling Roop, an alcoholic veterinarian with only one good ear.

Sling and his buddy, a Cree/Blackfoot named Henson with only one eye, have a long history together and their days at the Air Force Academy, their time in prison camp is only part of it.

It soon becomes clear that they stay so long in the backcountry only because they want to. They have marooned themselves by choice, looking both for a place to hide and a place to seek.

Although the story line has some minor weak spots, the book's imagery and sparse, elegant language pulls you through. Linguistic gems pepper almost every page.

A jet's contrail, Gustafson tells us, is "a scar of flight." And when a cloud slips under the moon, it leaves the world "sipping blackness."

Sling focuses on his senses, relying on his nose, tastebuds and fingertips to diagnose his patients and divine his surroundings. Yet he knows the dangers of living too closely in the sensory world.

"I know how the senses can deceive," Gustafson writes. "They aren't math and physics, sensations can fool a mortal."

His second book is less literary, but likely to be a good seller. Entitled "First Aid for the Active Dog," (Alpine Publications) it relies on the skills he applies in his day job and tells people how to take care of their canines when mishaps happen and there's no vet around.

"I like that book," Gustafson said. "It balances out the edge the fiction has, that some people wrinkle their noses at."

The slim book avoids technical jargon and is packed with practical information on everything from plucking porcupine quills to administering canine CPR to diagnosing altitude sickness.

The two short stories (Gustafson has published a number of others in literary magazines) appear in two Birch Brook Press collections entitled "The Suspense of Loneliness, Stories of the Forlorn," and "Tales for The Trail, Adventures in Air, Land and Sea."

In the latter book, Gustafson's story "Sequel," is the lead story and the one on which the book's cover design is based.

A novel, a nonfiction how-to book and short stories in two collections, all in one summer.

It's not a bad trick for a 48-year-old full-time veterinarian.

Gustafson, a Conrad native, comes from a creative and literary family. His father Rib, also a vet, has written books about his own life in the Hi-Line country and about Lewis and Clark. His sister Kristin, a lawyer, published a book about maritime law. His brother Eric, a teacher and musician, wrote a lengthy history of ancestors who were World War II heroes. And another brother, Wylie, is a country music recording artist and songwriter whose famous yodel is used in Yahoo! commercials.

Gustafson works on animals at his Church Street clinic and lives in an upstairs apartment, where he writes every day, usually around mid-day when the press of sick animals and distressed owners hits a lull.

"All the urgent veterinary stuff gets handled early in the morning," he said.

The novel took five years to write, he said, and the dog first-aid book took a little longer.

There's more on the way.

Another novel, entitled "Horsemen," is now making the rounds of publishers and Gustafson will supplement the dog book with one that addresses first aid for horses.

Few people in this area know of his literary work, although he has fans around the country, in places like Louisiana and New York's Hamptons, where literary magazines have been publishing his work for several years.

"I've got enclaves of fans in places I've never been," he said.

Gustafson will appear July 29 at the Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, at 7 p.m., to read from his new work.

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