I think it was about a year ago when short stories started popping up on Amazon's Kindle Store. I can't recall when exactly the whole Kindle Singles thing started up, but it was a year ago when I noticed it. It's wound up being not only a convenient way to test the waters with certain authors, particularly independent and self-published authors, but it helps in reading short stories from your favorite authors. In my case, I spied a few stories by Joe R. Lansdale a few months back, which was a great find. Each is a reissue of a previously published story, this time made available in e-book format via Gere Donovan Press. I finally got round to reading all four and decided to share some quick thoughts on each one.
"Bullets and Fire" was a very gritty story about revenge. A young man gets initiated into a gang, gets the lay of the land, and seems like the guy is a pretty low individual. Then it's quickly revealed the guy is trying to infiltrate the gang in pursuit of vengeance against the people who killed his brother. This story took a little while to get a handle on, mainly because the protagonist's motivation wasn't revealed until near the halfway mark, but once the sh-t hit the fan it picked up a lot.
"Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" is one of those stories that starts off in one direction, and you think you've got a handle on it, and then it veers wildly unto you just don't know what to expect. This little thriller felt like a bit of a mashup between Psycho and The Hitchhiker. A woman on the run winds up stranded on the side of the road, then trying to hide from the psychopath that finds her and offers to help her. The ending to this one was deranged and the highlight of the story.
"The Steel Valentine" is the kind of story that might make you squeamish if you're a dog lover. Me, I'm a dog lover, but even I will own up to my wariness of Doberman pinschers. I can't help it, man--they look like furry, four-legged sharks. Well, this story involves a guy waking up in the barn behind his lover's husband's house, tied to a chair and about to get really intimate with a Doberman that's been starved and tortured to the point of feral frenzy. F--k. That. This is one of those story that ramps up incrementally and really never lets up. My second favorite of the four.
"Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back" was my favorite and starkly different from the other three by virtue of being a sci-fi horror kind of tale. Told through journal entries, a scientist and his wife survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland on the west coast, devastated more than anything by the loss of their college-bound daughter. The scientist blames himself, but not quite as much as his wife, who exercises her demons and doles out punishment by administering a tattoo on the man's back day after day, as a reminder of the role he played in the world's destruction and their daughter's death. Holy sh*t, this was a good story. Never mind the crazy mutated creatures that roam the countryside, each more bizarre than the last, because the crux of the story belongs to the relationship between the scientist, his wife, and their daughter. It's tragic to a mind-numbing degree, but follows through with a brilliant bit of poetic justice.
So there's four stories from the "champion mojo storyteller." There are more stories published on the Kindle Store through Gere Donovan Press, which seems to be published a lot of Lansdale's backlist, as I also bought one of his novels from the late 80s called Waltz of Shadows. It's hard to go wrong with any of the stories, but if I had to recommend just one I'd go with "Tight Little Stitches," as that was just a fantastic story.