Here is my review of Shoebox Train Wreck by John Mantooth, published by ChiZine Publications (March, 2012).
In September of this year, while at Dragon*Con, I stopped by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) table for a chat.
It just so happened that they had two stacks of books that were free for the taking to anyone that was interested. Since I’m always interested in a book, I took one from the stack on the left. (I didn’t grab both because I didn’t want to be greedy…)
The book I chose was Shoebox Train Wreck by John Mantooth.
And let me tell you, I chose correctly.
16 short stories in one volume, based in the backwoods of the South. These stories are harsh and staggering in not only their violence, but also in their realism. Mantooth’s characters are people you know, but don’t want to admit that you do. They are hard and furious; eager to destroy innocence wherever they find it. But they are written with a fluidity and elegance within the grit.
Shoebox reminds me of a quote from James Baldwin: The South is very beautiful but its beauty makes one sad because the lives that people live here, and have lived here, are so ugly. Mantooth writes stories that knock the wind out of you and leave you jonesing for the next punch, vibrating with impact. I can’t explain it better than the tagline for the book: “The living haunt the dead…”
Single author anthologies give you the chance to experience the many of the moods of one writer. To get a sense of where their imagination takes them—and in turn you— all while staying snug and cozy in the hands of an entrancing storyteller. However, they are rare to find. Reading this title makes me want to find more of them.
I think I know why single author anthologies aren’t more popular with publishers. One reason many publishers don’t do single author collections often is that they can be hard to classify into one genre. This is the case with Shoebox. Horror, thriller, dark fantasy, paranormal, and literary are represented. While that may be a nightmare for a publisher, it’s a real treat for a reader. I won’t mention any specific story. Read them all. More than once.
ChiZine publications has a winner in the resonant Shoebox Train Wreck. You can find a copy of it here.