I love short story collections and I’ve come across some of Eryk Pruitt’s writing in a few crime anthologies, but this was my first experience of a whole book of his work.
His range is impressive – in terms of subject matter, characters and setting – and there’s something here for every fiction fan, from a humorous take on a vengeful tale about profiting via fantasy football to a cruel battle over a lawn mowing route.
The dialogue in every story is convincing and the themes explored – whether it’s violence, the threat of violence, desperation or redemption – are delivered with care an aplomb. Lots of showing not telling, lots of brutality and second guessing, this author has a lot of control over his writing and the stories had me entertained and, in some cases, spellbound.
Eryk Pruitt is someone whom I've read plenty stories and flash fiction pieces, listened to many interviews with and listened to his The Long Dance true crime podcast, but I'd never actually read one of his books. This one trampled on my expectations, not just in terms of quality, but in terms of the styles and tones of the stories in his debut collection.
There was a playfulness mixed in here that could is reminiscent of a Kundera with takes on human nature/condition. Social injustices are given time on the table too. The first part of the collection showed so much more than another collection of hard boiled tales.
"The Joe Flacco Defense" will forever be a favourite for brilliantly combining a couple of my favourite things, noir fiction and fantasy football. There was the fantasy football geek in me criticising some of the fictional team moves/game theory too.
"I'm the Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised" is a wicked slice of noir about a son visiting his dying mother. I'd read "It's Morning Again in Lake Castor" in the "Fast Women and Neon Lights" 80s themed anthology, but was so enjoying myself here, I read it again.
This one is so much more than just another collection of crime stories with facets you won't often find on the crime fiction shelves. Well worth picking up and I'll have to find time for some of Pruitt's novels now.