New shorts for Christmas

If you're a fan of short stories (or if you have such folks on your Christmas list), I've got some great recommendations for you.

Daniel Woodrell's "The Outlaw Album" continues the great work he's done in such novels as "Winter's Bone" and "Tomato Red." These are hard-boiled stories about hard-bitten people in the Ozarks and they're not for the faint of heart, but, dang, they're good.

The same goes for Frank Bill's debut, "Crimes in Southern Indiana," which is making a lot of "best of" lists for its unflinching look at small-town druggies and desperadoes. Donald Ray Pollock covers similar territory in "Knockemstiff," stories set in the "hollers" of rural Ohio. Pollock also has a new novel, "The Devil All the Time," which is dark and twisty and wonderful.

An older collection, but one of the best I've ever read, is "Welding With Children" by Tim Gautreaux. Bittersweet stories set in the South, often with little touches of laugh-out-loud humor.

Starting next month, I'm teaching "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir" in the University of New Mexico's Honors Program. We'll read a terrific anthology called "Hard-Boiled: An Anthology of American Crime Stories," edited by Bill Pronzini and Jack Adrian, as well as Eddie Muller's splendid "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir."

I just received in the mail a new collection called "The Best American Noir of the Century," edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. That collection will be the main text for a "New Noir" class next fall, along with selections from the Woodrell, Bill and Pollock collections mentioned above.

One reason I've focused on short stories lately is I'm trying to get better at writing them. E-books offer a market for short stories and novellas unlike any we've enjoyed before.

My current best-seller on Kindle is "Sanity Clause," a 25,000-word Christmas novella, which I can sell for only 99 cents.

I'm almost done with the first draft of my current project, a Bubba Mabry adventure called "Party Doll," and it's turning out to be a 40,000-word novella rather than an 80,000-word novel. And that, I've come to realize, is okay. No reason to pad a story to meet some editor's idea of what a private eye story should be. Instead, I'll self-publish it as a cheap e-book.

After all, lots of crime writers are doing brilliant work with fewer words than that.


Hal Johnson said...

I love good anthologies, and it's great that ebooks have given new life to the short fiction market.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Way to go Steve! Thanks so much for the recommendations!