Long Live Short Stories

In Indieland, short story collections reign. They let authors explore ideas without having to live with them for 300-plus pages. And some tales are just better suited for immediate rather than prolonged consumption. In these three Indie picks, the authors’ efforts in short fiction—one plays with structure, another tone, and the third with character creation—yield star-earning results.

Crowsong for the Stricken, by Ted Morrissey:Morrissey’s12 stories—about a fictional 1950s Midwestern town that’s struck by a plague—form a novel that can be read in any order. “Depending on where the reader starts,” says our reviewer, “they may see a different character as the primary protagonist.” Recommended for those who want “something strange and beautiful.”

Mr. Morality The Amazing Mr. Morality, by Jacob M. Appel: The prolific Appel, a physician, attorney, and bioethicist, has earned half a dozen Kirkus stars, including for his latest. The Amazing Mr. Morality blends Appel’s penchant for wry satire and morbidity. In one story, “The Children’s Lottery,” the author borrows from Jonathan Swift and Shirley Jackson to tell a tale where children play a loser’s lottery. The unlucky one is sent to a waiting pedophile. This keeps the rest of the children safe, at least temporarily. “Another excellent Appel collection of intelligent, humanistic, and witty stories that bite.”

The El Paso Red Flame Gas Station, by J. Reeder Archuleta: This collection, set in a 1950s and ’60s Texas town, revolves around Josh, “dirt poor and with few prospects.” Josh wanders aimlessly, well-intentioned but a little dull. “Fortunately,” says our reviewer, Archuleta surrounds him with more colorful and charismatic characters, from a no-nonsense deputy and a flinty rancher to a tart-tongued, motherly diner waitress.” The result is “a well-wrought panorama of small-town dramas and discontents.” Karen Schechner is the vice president of Kirkus Indie.

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