For the uninitiated, a wonderful introduction to a Southern original.



Thirty hilarious stories, mostly set in small-town South Carolina, gathered from eight collections published over the last two decades.

As Tom Franklin notes in his introduction, Singleton's stories often proceed from simple, spectacular premises, the kind easily conveyed in a sentence. "Outlaw Head and Tail" features a bouncer—well, a "pre-bouncer"—who accidentally records an episode of Bonanaza over his wife's sonogram and then canvasses barflies in search of a substitute tape; in "Show-and-Tell," a divorced father pursues his high school girlfriend, now his son's third grade teacher, by proxy, sending his boy to school with great love letters of literature during show and tell, mementos like a dried-up wrist corsage and matching boutonniere, etc. "Probate" tells of a couple's misadventures with a heartbroken and gabby "traveling euthanasia vet"; the hero of "This Itches, Y'All" is a man shadowed all his life by his three words of dialogue in a hygiene filmstrip about head lice; "Staff Picks" tells a love story about a librarian and a professional bowler who meet while trying to win an RV by keeping a hand on it for as long as possible. These stories have absurdist energy, wit, and inventiveness to burn, but antic comedy is their mode and métier, not their sole aim or reason for being. Singleton's work doesn't wear literariness on its sleeve; even when he channels canonical writers, as in "John Cheever, Rest in Peace," he does so in a way that's literal and can seem almost anti-literary—making the grandly metaphorical, life-spanning "The Swimmer" into a story in which a man suffers a heart attack on his riding mower and then, dead, cuts a gently arcing swath across his town before crashing into a silo. But these stories are often sneakily ambitious, sneakily moving. Singleton has Charles Portis' gift for writing a satire both ruthless and lined always with affection, and like that Southern icon, he's a master of and evangelist for the joys and idiosyncrasies of speech, especially the loquacious talk of barrooms and Little League fields and scrapbooking shops.

For the uninitiated, a wonderful introduction to a Southern original.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-938235-69-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hub City Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020


Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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