Michelle Bailat-Jones

Writer, Translator, Reader

I have two recent reviews over at Necessary Fiction that I would like to mention here. The first is for Sheldon Lee Compton’s début collection of stories The Same Terrible Storm. Compton is an American writer from Virginia and his stories draw firmly on their Appalachian setting. It is a wonderfully atmospheric collection.

Here is some of what I had to say in my review:

… each story, especially the longer ones, suit this notion of storm—of rage, outburst, eruption, hurricane, all of these definitions and more—in one way or another. Each story has, at its center, its own horrible explosion and Compton’s careful, voice-inflected prose circles these tense moments in a way that feels much like a dance.

The wind skirted across the pond and slid beneath the sill. A spirit breeze spiked with pine needles and some circled the bedroom and took hold of her ribbed waist. She would go to the pond and wait, wait for Pete to return with his hound from hell and Van to join her and for Kent to arrive to the place of his redemption or rest where rooftop clouds would collide, where, like always, not a single drop of rain would touch the cracked marble of her skin.

How wonderful is the alliteration in this section of the titular story—all those s’s, plus that “hound from hell” where another writer might have been content to leave off with hound and sadly lose all the rhythm in the triplet phrasing, and then, finally the switch from the s’s to a series of hard k’s (Kent, collide, like, cracked, skin) that foreshadow the movement of this particular piece from one of soft and hazy experience to a sharp and pointed confrontation, an unexpected blowing up.

You can read the whole review here.

The Same Terrible Storm is published by Foxhead Books, an independent publisher with a very small but impressive catalogue.


The second review was published today and is for Pia Juul’s fantastic Murder of Halland which came out just earlier this year from Peirene Press. I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy Peirene’s publishing program and the novellas–in-translation they select. The Murder of Halland was no exception – it’s a page-turner of the most devious and literary kind.

My review begins like this:

Think of that classical mystery genre set in a small town and which involves the unexpected murder of a prominent citizen. Now think of this genre turned inside out and upside down, where all of your “mystery story” expectations are set up neatly but quickly subverted. This will give you some idea of what to expect from Pia Juul’s The Murder of Halland — a fascinating and fun and thoughtful anti-mystery.

You can read the full review here.

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