“Bloodshot & Bruised: Crime Stories from the South & West” by Travis Richardson Entertains
(* A 180 page collection of short stories, many of them award-winning)
Travis Richardson grew up in Oklahoma, but currently lives in Los Angeles—which, (judging from some of the lines in his short stories within this slim (180 pp.) volume),he doesn’t really like all that much. But it’s where the action is, in writing and in film.
Travis has directed a handful of short films and written many award-winning short stories, such as “Incident on the 405,” which was a nominee for both the Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story, or”Quack & Dwight,” which was a Finalist in the ScreenCraft Short Story Contest, as well as a Finalist for the Derringer Award and a nominee for the Macavity and the Anthony Awards for Best Short Story.
This collection of crime stories consists of 16 short stories and some (“The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street,” or “Real-Time Retribution”) are REALLY short.
As a fellow short story writer, I can empathize with the need for some sort of organizational principle.
What should it be?
In my own case(“Hellfire & Damnation,” Vols. 1, 2 and 3) it ended up being the crimes or sins punished at each of the 9 Circles of Hell in Dante’s”Inferno.” In Travis’ case, it ended up being the geographical area of the country where the stories are set.
It’s tough to come up with a logical organizing principle for a series of short stories,especially if, as in Richardson’s case, you are dealing with Oklahoma and L.A.
In my own case, I had to be inspired to write stories that dealt with limbo,lust, gluttony, avarice & prodigality, wrath & sullenness, heresy, the violent, the fraudulent and treachery. But Travis had to come at it from a different angle. I think it works here, and I salute him for his efforts. (Mine pre-date the many works by the likes of Dan Brown that focus on Dante’s “Inferno” but nevermind about that...)
What were the”best” stories in this collection?
While all are enjoyable, it is tough to call a story of only 101 words a complete “short story.” Flash fiction, yes. A short story only if in that category. That super short one is the final story in the book, and it is not my favorite.
So, what IS my favorite?
Within”Bloodshot: Tales from the South,” I liked these in no particular order: “The Proxy,” “Cop in a Well,” “A Bro Code Violation,” and “Maybelle’s Last Stand.”
Within”Bruised: Stories from the West” I liked “Incident on the405” and “Not Sure Which Way I’m Headin’.”
The entire collection goes down easily and well; I finished it one 4-hour sitting. I enjoyed the plots that were the most fully developed, which is probably why I’m aiming my praise at those longer stories.
One thing I’ve noticed as a short story writer of about nine volumes is that the “surprise” or satisfactorily “concluded” ending is hard to pull off—[and gets harder with every story written.] There are only so many ways to”surprise” a seasoned reader, and don’t we writers know it!
In this volume we have these stories: “The Day We Shot Jesus on Main Street” -“An inspired train of thought about how mega-churches are the opposite of Jesus’ examples and how nothing, not even a blasphemous stunt, would get members to see this.” (Synopses from the author).
“The Proxy:” “Thinking about the country’s drug epidemic, the moral issues involved, and how much somebody would sacrifice for a family member.” I could see this as a film with Clint Eastwood as”the proxy” and Clint’s new movie (“The Mule”) sums up how I would expect him to appear as the lead.
“Cop in a Well” – “Written with the idea of having a character escape an impossible situation.” One of the first and one of the best.
“A Bro Code Violation” – “I hunted deer a few times in Oklahoma. What I remember most is standing still and freezing.” Also good and lengthy.
“Here’s to Bad Decisions: Red’s Longneck Hooch” – “I could hear an announcer dictating the downfall of a character while selling his product. I had to write it.”
“Getting the Yes” – “Written not long after I was engaged, it has nothing to do with my wife and more about anxiety of the ring being good enough.”
“Damn Good Dad” – “A sad take on meth addiction and skewed priorities. I had heard stories about families suffering burns while trying to provide extra income.”
“Tim’s Mother Lied” – “I sent the story to Shotgun Honey as a noir children’s sale. They sent notes that it didn’t work, so I rewrote the story straight from the child’s point of view. It turned out better.”
“Maybelle’s Last Stand” – “Not sure of the origin, but I remember a vision of a blurry, menacing man sauntering up to a porch, not unlike Once Upon a Time in the West.“
“Because” – “The working title was ‘The Boy Who Didn’t Read.’ I saw the story from the middle first with the robbery and then broke down the reasons why it happened.”
“Incident on the 405:” “I pictured two women from two different worlds colliding on Los Angeles’ biggest parking lot.”
“Quack & Dwight:” “I worked on multiple drafts to get this story right and enlisted the aid of an L.A. County Prosecutor and an expert in child services. Also, the editor, Kenneth Wishnia, called me out on putting too much starch in the Jewish meal.”
“Final Testimony:” “Started out as a longer piece that got compressed into this story. I saw a desperate cop who sacrificed everything for a case, and it could be for nothing.”
“Not Sure Which Way I’m Headin'”: “I’d wanted to write about the 1992 Los Angeles riots for quite a while. When I moved to L.A. in the late ’90s, people talked about O.J. and the riots all the time.”
“The Movement:” “I wanted to set the story with the Bohemian Club, but research proved to be difficult since it is a secretive society. So I opted for the nearby Russian River in an area where I used to work.”
“Real-Time Retribution” : “I thought of a man in an impossible situation and how he might get out of it with some pride. A fun exercise in compression.”
The very first story (and nearly all in the first half of the book) uses a lot of slang and idioms. Example: “This is a right-to-carry state, and if you don’t carry—-well, that says a lot about your character.” There was also an expression that football coach Hayden Fry of the University of Iowa, a transplant from Texas, used to use: “That bird won’t fly.” (Only, in Hayden’s case, it was “That dog won’t hunt.”) I still remember how Fry’s references to a “high-porch picnic” was incomprehensible to Iowans, but natural to a native Texan—or Oklahoma— native.
When I was writing “Hellfire & Damnation,” Vol.I, I wrote a story entitled “Amazing Andy, the Wonder Chicken.” I showed it to David Morrell, who quickly took the wind out of my proud sails by saying that he “didn’t like the use of idioms” or some such.
- Bloodshot and Bruised: Crime Stories from the South and West Nov 27, 2018 by Travis Richardson Kindle Edition$3.99$ 3 99Get it TODAY, Dec 14Paperback$14.99$ 14 99 Prime FREE Shipping on eligible orders Available to ship in 1-2 days More Buying Choices$14.53(6 used & new offers)
Nevermind: I liked it then, and I like it now, in Richardson’s stories. (There’s quite a bit of it in the first 10 stories, so my advice would be: “Don’t show these stories to David Morrell!”) It just goes to show how different writers have different standards and there is no ONE “right” way to write.
Richardson’s work is heavy on action and right on the money for description: not too much (hundreds of words describing a bicycle leaning against an ivied wall in one Joyce Carol Oates short story!) and not too little. His stories and characters are interesting and plots are his forte.
All-in-all, a very nice collection of short stories. Try them. You’ll like them!