Volt by Alan Heathcock. I'm midway through reading this collection of short stories (due to be published by Graywolf Press next week), and I'll have a review posted here sometime in the near future. For now, however, I can tell you that I feel the same way a teenage girl must have felt when she got a ticket to The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964 to hear a new group of lads from Liverpool play a few songs. You may not have heard Alan Heathcock's name before (outside of my endless raving here on this blog), but I can assure you that based on the quality of this book alone, he is going to be big. Like, Beatles-big. One day, you will look back and say you were lucky enough to win his debut collection for free in a blog contest.
Here's a small slice from "Peacekeeper," a story about Helen Farrelly, a small-town female sherrif, handling a missing-child case. In this scene, a group of men show up on Christmas Day to tell her of another body they've found. The men think the victim has killed himself, but Helen knows the truth--a dark secret that gnaws at her....
Helen stepped gingerly out on the porch and closed the door behind her. Four men in parkas, the First Baptist Deacons, stood at different levels on the steps, colored lights in the spruce reflecting on tracks of ice on the porch. Helen did not have her coat, and hugged herself with one arm and sipped her coffee.
Pastor Hamby’s cheeks were flushed, his thin lips drawn tightly over his teeth. “We were delivering care baskets out in the knobs like we always do,” he said, and looked back at the deacons.
They’d found Joakes’s body, this Helen knew by their faces. She tried to still her own face, her heart, to quiet the guilty part of her that wanted to confess and be forgiven.
Frank Barker, a squat man in glasses, stepped a boot on the porch and leaned over his leg. “The holidays is hard on some,” he said. “It ain’t joy and cranberries for everyone. For some it’s only lonesome pain.”
If you'd like a chance to win a copy of Volt, all you have to do is answer this question:
What is the name of the fictional town where the majority of Volt's stories are set? (Visit Heathcock's website to find the answer)
Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org
Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. One entry per person, please. Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on March 3--at which time I'll draw the winning name. I'll announce the lucky reader on March 4.