Wicked Wednesday again, and we’re continuing our “What else do we read besides mystery fiction” series. Today we’re going to make a lot of our writer friends happy and talk short stories (and it’s ok if they’re mysterious!). Wickeds, name your favorite!
Jessie: I loved Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and all of the short stories by Agatha Christie.
Edith: I started with Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle as a child. In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to have one or two stories a year published in anthologies (and even nominated for Agatha Awards!), and I love perusing those collections. This year’s Malice Domestic 12: Mystery Most Historical includes a whole slew of fabulous stories, including ones by friends of the Wickeds Liz Milliron, KB Inglee, Catriona McPherson, Kathy Lynn Emerson, Victoria Thompson, and Nancy Herriman, (and yours truly) among others.
Barb: I love short stories. I chased down as many of Ruth Rendell’s short stories as I could find looking for something that happened to the characters “in between” two books in the Wexford series. And, after I abandoned literary fiction in the 1980s, it was Alice Munro’s short stories that brought me back. But my favorite mystery short story is “The Woman in the Wardrobe,” by Robert Barnard from Death of a Salesperson and Other Untimely Events. My favorite literary short story is “The Horseman,” by Richard Russo, because it is perfect. It’s recently been re-released in Trajectory, a collection of four of Russo’s long shorts.
Liz: I love Roald Dahl too – I remember reading The Way Up to Heaven in college and it’s remained one of my favorites.
Sherry: When I was in elementary school I read a book of short stories called Night in Funland and Other Stories. In the title story a kid gets on a Ferris Wheel as the dad waits below. When the ride ends the kid is missing. It was such a creepy story and I’ve never forgotten it. As an adult I hadn’t read a lot of short stories until the last few years when so many of my writing friends have great stories in anthologies like those put out by the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime and by Level Best Books.
Julie: Liz, you are testing us this month with the Wicked Wednesdays! Like Jessie, I like Agatha Christie’s short stories. I am also a Flannery O’Connor fan. The Lottery still gives me nightmares, so I suppose I should add Shirley Jackson to the list.
Edith: My son introduced me to “The Lottery.” Gah…
Readers, weigh in with your favorites!
I read a lot of short stories. My brother and I argue Hemingway (him) versus Fitzgerald (me) but we both agree that Ray Bradbury was a genius, and I love Alice Munro and Ellen Gilchrist. Currently, I read Sherman Alexie, Aimee Bender, and many of my writer friends who are short story artists. My favorite is my critique buddy Russell Reece, because he is not only a wonderful writer but our trades make me read stories on topics I would not generally touch: fly fishing, visiting bars in Tijuana as a young soldier, ocean fishing, hunting, boating, and did I mention fishing?
Yes, the Lottery probably tops my list, but The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a close second. Laurence Block recently did a super collection of short stories by current writers, each one based on an Edward Hopper painting–In Sunlight or in Shadows. (Stories by Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Craig Ferguson–lots more).
I’m joining Carol’s list…. Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates…. and I have the Laurence Block collection based on Edward Hopper on my TBR pile. Years ago I read a short story about a woman on an airplane, and when the plane lands her husband is arrested as a traitor. I loved that story and have no idea where I read it or who wrote it.
The Lottery came to mind first along with A Rose for Emily. I’m not a big short story fan I general, but I love Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. For non-mysteries, Ray Bradbury tops the list.
Thanks for the mention, Edith. My favorite short story of all time continues to be O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.” But I’ve become a big fan of Art Taylor as well–and MYSTERY MOST HISTORICAL is chock full of good stories (including Edith’s).
Such a nice post–so nice to turn the attention to short stories! And Liz, I’ve never read “The Way Up to Heaven”—checking it out now.
I’m a broken record in terms of recommending the stories of Stanley Ellin, but he remains my favorite; I’d specifically recommend “The Moment of Decision,” “The House Party,” and “The Day of the Bullet.” Daphne du Maurier’s stories are also great—with “Don’t Look Now” topping that list.
Thanks for the reminder to get Murder Most Historical. I know I will enjoy it. I was on the Edgar committee for stories some time ago and kind of OD’d on them, but it’s time to start reading again. May I recommend my publisher’s Poisoned Pen’s anniversary anthology, Bound by Mystery? A wide variety of stories from Poisoned Pen authors past and present. Including me, using a history tidbit I could not find a way to include in my next book. For me, Lawrence Block remains one of the mystery short story masters, and I’m certainly not alone in that opinion. General fiction – Alice Munro of course. And I’ve had a sneaking affection, since teen years, for ones by Jack Finney. Read at that impressionable age, there are a few I still remember and have never found in any anthology. And two by Stephen Vincent Benet – Devil and Danial Webster and By the Waters of Babylon.
I buy short story anthologies, and then I never get around to reading them. I’m not the biggest fan of the genre, and I have so many novels calling my name, so between the two, it just doesn’t happen.
However, in early high school, I adored O Henry. His stories are quite entertaining. One of his lesser known stories that is brilliant is a self-aware parody of stories where a kid home alone surprises a burglar and reforms him. The characters know they are playing the parts in the story and are talking about how they are getting the lines wrong or how it hurts his livelihood since he never earns anything anymore. It’s Galaxy Quest a century before the movie and quite fun even if you aren’t familiar with what he is mocking. I think it was called “Tommy’s Burglar.”
A meta story!
I remember that story. And yes, it is brilliant.
I have a love-hate relationship with short stories. I don’t write many, and I don’t read many. I probably used to read more when I commuted by train and had time to read The New Yorker.
But one stands out–and it’s not even a short story as such. When Frank McCourt’s book Angela’s Ashes first came out, the New Yorker published one of the earlier chapters (alone). I didn’t realize it was an excerpt from the book, but it stood on its own merits and it was heart-breaking, and I’ve never forgotten it. Irish author William Trevor also writes short stories that grab me and won’t let go–The Hill Bachelors is the only one I can name, and it’s far from recent.
William Trevor is one of the greats! Good call there.
Which means McCourt had a whole story arc in one chapter – admirable!
Angela’s Ashes is one of my favorite books. It hits every possible emotion, sadness, joy, anger, hopelessness, despair, and laugh out loud humor.
One thing I’ve always loved about Angela’s Ashes is that the narrator in the beginning tells the story from a child’s perspective, without judging the horrors that surround him (that’s where that early chapter hits home)–there is an odd innocence about it.
BTW, McCourt and my father used to hang out at the same New York bar in the 1940s–I like to fantasize that they shared a drink or two.
I have never been that interested in short stories, but may have to develop it. I have always loved poetry, especially the classics. As a ‘Mainer-in-Exile’, I enjoy reading about Maine – whether fiction or non-fiction. Authors I keep going back to: Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ben Ames Williams, Elizabeth Ogilvie, and Ruth Moore. My eyes and heart still seek out children’s books with vintage illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham, Kate Greenaway, Jesse Wilcox Smith, Maurice Day, etc. I am currently reading one of my favorite children’s’ books, Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooley, while my grandson and I plant some lupine here in Wisconsin to “make the world more beautiful”. Be in Maine in ten days to see the lupine 🙂
The Landlady is another great Roald Dahl short story. And I’m a big fan of Ray Bradbury’s short stories.
Jessie started us off with her nod to Agatha Christie. The story I’ve been reading repeatedly lately for comfort, because it’s so light and charming and clever, dare I say cozy? — “Problem at Pollensa Bay.” (Love it especially because there is NO MURDER! which is a chance to send a plea to you excellent writers: please consider writing cozy mysteries which don’t have to kill someone! Yes, it’s fiction, but it always creeps me out; I have to get past the bad feeling to enjoy the delicious plots & characters & writing.) Another comfort fave: “Dog Star,” Arthur C. Clarke. With the news so bad these days, I have little tolerance for dark, twisted stuff. Hope things lighten up eventually so I can branch out to less vanilla literature. (Thanks to the Wicked Cozy Authors for keeping things cozy!)
I hear you, Ruth. I hate to kill people in books, and sometimes I go to odd lengths to make a death accidental or unintended.
Comments are closed.