Twenty previously published short stories with but one thing in common: good writing.
The best of the exemplary bunch is the late George V. Higgins’s “Jack Duggan’s Law,” a wry stiff-the-lawyer anecdote served with gusto. Close behind are Dennis Lehane’s “Until Gwen,” a gaudily noir father-son crime scenario; David Orozco’s “Officers Weep,” incidence reports that jump from goofy to tawdry to despairing; and Edward P. Jones’s “Old Boys, Old Girls,” about a prisoner whose incarceration only begins with his cell. One rung down, in the Very Good category are Joseph Raiche’s “One Mississippi,” about a hellish subway ride that leads to even more barbaric encounters; Kent Nelson’s “Public Trouble,” a downbeat look at the most beautiful boy in the world; David Means’s “Sault St. Marie,” in which a homicidal trio becomes a duo; and Oz Spies’s “The Love of a Strong Man,” in which a rapist’s wife confesses her culpability. The dozen remaining stories include Scott Turow’s tell-all; Scott Wolven’s logger’s jam; Laura Lippman’s encore for series character Tess Monaghan; Stuart M. Kaminsky’s country-music sour note; Louise Erdrich’s small-town chronicle; Daniel Handler’s night in a gin mill; Lou Manfredo’s paean to expediency; Sam Shaw’s rampaging lovers; John Sayles’s death afloat; Tim McLoughlin’s racist remembrance; and lesser offerings from David Rachel (an S.S. identity switch) and Richard Burgin (an escapist’s enclave).
Oates thoughtfully introduces generally gritty tales told with panache.