Archive for May, 2013

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Story A Day: “Dead on Her Feet” by Cornell Woolrich

May 23, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320Another story from the Cornell Woolrich collection I started yesterday—this one more of a straight whodunit, but with some grisly imagery and dark flourishes. A cop sent to break up a shady dance contest finds that one of the last contestants is literally… well, see the title above. An investigation follows, but even though the killer is outed, it’s another character who suffers the most from the process. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “The Night Reveals” by Cornell Woolrich

May 22, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320Just got in the mail the Centipede Press collection Speak to Me of Death: The Collected Short Fiction of Cornell Woolrich, Volume I. We started in the middle of the collection with the story “The Night Reveals” about an insurance investigator who begins to suspect his wife may be a pyromaniac and secret arsonist. While other short story writers might have let that revelation be the end of the story (no spoilers here; any attentive reader will see it coming within the first few pages), Woolrich pushes a little deeper, turns the screw a little tighter, and gives no release, not even in the final actions of the story. Unflinching. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “Hiding” by Frances Badgett

May 21, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320Flash fiction obviously works on the less is more principle—relying on being suggestive rather than exhaustive in its descriptions of characters, plots, etc. “Hiding” by Frances Badgett—the tale of a young girl struggling to keep a box secreted away from her father’s girlfriend—doesn’t entirely explain the relationships and the motives at its core, but what’s there is more than enough to keep the reader both intrigued and emotionally invested in the narrator’s troubled situation. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”

May 20, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320In addition to reading the complete stories of Stanley Ellin, Tara and I have also been working out way—aloud—through the complete Sherlock Holmes, novels and stories both. We currently have only one book left, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, the final collection of stories, which we finally delved into last night. The first tale, “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client,” has some great lines, a fiendishly despicable villain, and a vivid bit of revenge at the end, but overall, we both found ourselves a little disappointed. While this story has several aspects of the first Sherlock Holmes short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”—including a scandalous relationship at its core, an incriminating bit of material that needs to be retrieved, and the interests of a royal personage, plus Watson stepping in to provide diversions while Holmes carries out his work—the end result is hardly as complex or rewarding as that first and perhaps most outstanding of the tales. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “Jhonathan and the Witchs” by Stephen King

May 19, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320Writer and editor Paul Mandelbaum gathered the childhood writings of 22 distinguished authors—including Margaret Atwood, Pat Conroy, Michael Crichton, Allan Gurganus, Ursula K. Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, John Updike, and Tobias Wolff—for the collection First Words, which is a real hoot for fans of any of the featured writers’ more mature works and is also an inspiration for aspiring authors everywhere. For today’s story, I read a short piece that Stephen King wrote at age 9 and lent to the anthology—spelling errors and all! Certainly a pleasure to read (including the editor’s annotations about how this early work prefigures King’s later published writings), and also interesting to learn that King’s aunt paid him a quarter a story to encourage his writing habit— an investment that clearly brought favorable returns. Algonquin Books published the collection originally, and King’s tale can be found on the publisher’s blog here. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “Black” by Paul Cain

May 18, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320I picked up the Centipede Press edition of Paul Cain’s works, The Complete Slayers, after reading Michael Dirda’s review in the Washington Post. The stories, most of which appeared in Black Mask in the 1930s, are spare and uncompromising—more minimalist than either Hammett or Hemingway ( contemporaries and obvious points of comparison) and bleaker than either as well. “Black,” the first story in the collection, reminds me in some ways of Hammett’s Red Harvest: a lone man comes into town and pits two rival groups against one another. Both terse and tense—a little too much of the former for my taste, ultimately, but certainly with enough of the later quality to make up for it. — Art Taylor

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Story A Day: “Molly’s Bed” by Bonnie Jo Campbell

May 17, 2013

shortstorymonth320x320Sandra Seamans’ “My Little Corner” is one of my favorite blogs—an invaluable resource for anyone interested in writing short stories and for those reading them too. She’s been doing great work recently pointing folks to some terrific short fiction on the web for Short Story Month, and I was pleased that she led me recently to Bonnie Jo Campbell’s “Molly’s Bed” in Driftless Review—a fun little tale that offers a glimpse at the much wider world of its main character. Check it out. And be sure to follow Seamans’ blog, too! Art Taylor

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