I don’t know whether or not people know much about or like Larry Brown. He was born in Oxford, Mississippi–the hometown of William Faulkner, and they crossed in timelines for about 10 years. But Larry Brown was a longtime fire chief, then sat down to write thriller stories, to middling success, and ending up writing a number of short stories, and a half dozen or so novels. His novels are a little all over the place (as with a lot of writers) in terms of structure and tone, but the subjects tend to be Southern white working class people, small towns, and a kind of rough living. He’s not a poverty porn kind of writer, and he’s not particularly forgiving or sentimental about his subjects. He’s the kind of writer who might be in vogue in the current political climate with hucksters like JD Vance writing books, but there’s too much honesty in the writing for those figures.
This is the collected stories. I’d read his first collection about 4 or 5 times in college, never read his second collection, and had never seen the other six or so stories in this collection, so it was an interesting journey through both his career, and my take on his work.
The early early stories are those kind of fake thrillers that are perfectly well-rendered and perfectly uninteresting. The first collection is more hesitant at times, and experimental at other times, it’s also way sadder than the later collection. Many of the stories are good, and a few are not, and it ends on a final bombastic (and fun) story that seems to open him up. The second collection is just good and free-wheeling and fun throughout and he is clearly hitting his stride.