Short Thoughts on Short Fiction: Collections

‘Tis the time of year for best of lists and such. I included my five favorite novels of the year in the Spinetingler post: The Best Mystery/Crime Fiction of 2011. Here I wanted to call out some of the best short fiction collections from 2011.

Not necessarily a best of list, and certainly not in any kind of order (well, not a meaningful order. Okay, it may have some meaning to someone but it wasn’t intended. Fine, maybe it was, and if you’re offended by the order, please contact me, and explain the order which offends you. If it’s the one I intended, I will apologize. Or not.) Really, just some of the stuff that has remained in my head after the initial reading. Also, if any of these were published before 2011, I don’t really care.

Breakfast Anytime by Bryon Quartermaus – An odd collection of strippers, hookers and booze. It’s a wild ride and worth the time. Great for lovers of crime, creepy sex, oh, and dog lovers. Not in combination you sick pervert.

8 Pounds by Chris F Holm – A great collection from a masterful writer containing one of the best stories I’ve ever read, The World Behind. Grab it. Read it. Read it again. Yes, again.

Beat on the Brat by Nigel Bird – A mix of revenge, hatred, humor and hope. Nigel always surprises with his ability to infuse character in few words, and that skill powers each of these stories. And poems. Yes, poems. And haiku.

Dig Ten Graves by Heath Lowrance – There’s crime, horror and noir filling the pages (well, virtual pages, fine. Geez, you are a picky reader) of this collection. From the creepy Emancipation With Teeth to the genre bending Always Too Late, Heath delivers the goods in a fresh way throughout.

The Chaos We Know by Keith Rawson – This is a collection that plays to the soul of dirty crime fiction and noir. It pulls no punches, offers no pretty hopes and resolves precious little. It just lays a world at your feet and demands that you respond to it. Powerful writing on each page, and a must read.

Voices in the Field by J Allen Fielder – The eighteen stories in this book cover horror, crime, mystery with little splashes of dark comedy when appropriate. A real standout is Toby and the Lake, a heartbreaking story about the struggle, and sometimes failure, to overcome circumstance.

The Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles The collection is full of well rounded and empathy inducing characters. Compelling and thought provoking stories. And, a complete and engrossing setting that will transport you to the old west and into the lives of these two marshals. With the collection relaying the adventures of these two men, the book has a feel of a television serial. Each story is self-contained with action and emotion, but the whole teaches us about the characters as we go along. The series has grown with a volume II, and two longer works by other authors stepping into the world. A great place to visit.

Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill, Jr. – This collection of stories is brutal. Each tale delivers raw emotion and physical harm. Not in a gratuitous slasher-flick way, but with an authentic voice and tone that draw you in. Equal parts sympathetic to the plight of people who claw for survival and disgusted by the choices many of them make. Reading this was an emotional ride for me. With each story, there was something that stuck out. A lesson. A feeling. A hint of a truth about a life I have never lived. Here are the little thoughts I had while reading. Go pick this up and see what you find inside.

Gone Bad by Julie Morrigan – The collection is worth reading just for the violent story of love gone wrong, Devlin, Me and Cherry B. But there’s so much there also.

Brit Grit by Paul D Brazill – What I love about this collection is that I can thoroughly enjoy the story, and get lost in characters, even though many of the terms and social jokes mean nothing to me at all. The language, idioms, and repeated characters and places gave me a sense that these were scenes from the same place over time. It’s a window into a gritty world. Paul has indicated that many of these events and characters are based on true events, but one of them isn’t. Check this collection out and see which one you hope is pure fiction.

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R Thomas Brown

R. Thomas Brown is the Flash Fiction Editor at Spinetingler and writes the Short Thoughts on Short Fiction series. His writing appears around the web and links can be found at his website. "Hill Country" will be coming out in 2012 from Snubnose Press. When not writing or reading, he is a clueless husband and father of three inspiring and exhausting children.

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  1. Such a great bunch of writers that it’s a thrill to be there. It’s a shame you can’t put in Mayhem, so I hope you don’t mind if I add it here in the comments.


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