Short Story Challenge: Old Leech, new crime, giveaways and great reads

Kitsch Confidential,” by Janice Leagra, at Ghost Parachute. This is an amusing surreal story about Anthony Bourdain, explaining it would ruin it.

We Go Together,” by Eric McMillan in One Story. The story of a moto (overly motivated, oo-rah type) US Army combat infantry NCO who gets command of a support platoon in 1996 on the South Korean border. It captured the character well, and brought back the pre-9/11 military feel, when the peace seemed a possibility, but it’s really about how racism doesn’t seem like racism when you’re racist.

Faint of Heart,” by Amanda Rea in One Story. I liked this one a lot, a woman about to be married inadvertently rescues a child, and becomes obsessed with the criminal. Their paths meet again. It’s different than the usual stories of its kind, and a great small-town tale.

I finished The Children of Old Leech, edited by Ross Lockhart, an anthology of stories set in the cosmic horror mythos of Laird Barron. Barron is one of my favorite writers, and while he doesn’t contribute–that would be silly–the writers all did a fine job of tackling subjects dear to his heart. Some standouts were stories by Gemma Files, Orrin Grey, Jeffrey Thomas, T.E. Grau, Paul Tremblay, Michael Griffin, Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Daniel Mills, John Langan, and Scott Nicolay & Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay. Overall, an excellent anthology. I really enjoyed the last one by the Nicolays, about a gutterpunk and his dog riding the rails to flee pursuers who want a book he’s scavenged.

run, Jennifer” by doungjai gam at Tough Crime is a cathartic read for anyone who’s worked front of the house in a restaurant, or dealt with a douchebag in general. My first read by gam, and it won’t be my last.

Chris McGinley returns to the holler for a longer haint tale at Tough Crime, with “And They Shall Take Up Serpents.” Both McGinley and Gam are a little raw, but they both show a lot of promise and potential, and know how to spin a good yarn, which is the heart of being a writer. The polish comes later.

Our New Lives,” by Helen Coats in One Teen Story was a compelling read, about a big sister going off to college, right after her younger brother loses a classmate in a tragic accident. It captures the sibling dynamic and how much we communicate with siblings without saying a word. A fine read.

I picked up The Highway Kind again, so that will be my next story collection.

Some great reads, lately:

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward. A sad, and stunningly beautiful book about the lead-up to Hurricane Katrina, in the part of the country hit hardest, the Mississippi Gulf country. Not that New Orleans didn’t have it bad, but the levees breaking are what did them. Mississippi took the direct brunt of the storm. Ward’s story centers on the Batiste family, from young woman Esch’s point of view, as her father tries to fix up a truck to get clean up work after the storm, her brother Randall hopes to go to basketball camp where he can get a scholarship, and Skeetah dotes on his pit China’s newborn pups, hoping to sell them to pay for Randall’s camp, and to keep their family going.

I’m in the middle of The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale, and it’s one of his best. I love Hap & Leonard, but his young adult tales like The Bottoms and Edge of Dark Water are my favorites, and this is in that vein, sort of a mash-up of True Grit and The Searchers, in a story only Joe could write.

I’m also reading Blackout, the latest Pete Fernandez mystery by Alex Segura, who never disappoints. He plumbs the darkness with a sensitive hero who unlike fairy tale knights, can’t escape battle unscathed. Start with Silent City, Down The Darkest Street, and Dangerous Ends.

Oh, Green Sun  by Kent Anderson turned out to be as excellent as his earlier Hanson novel, Night Dogs, one of the best police novels ever written. This one is ever so prescient, even though it is set in 1983 in Oakland, long before gentrification was a glimmer in a city planner’s eye.

If you’ve stuck around this long, if you don’t subscribe to my newsletter, today is the time. I’m posting a book giveaway at 3:30pm EST, so jump on the bus before then. I also have a Last Jedi movie poster that’s up for grabs.