Thursday, August 8, 2013

MONDAY'S MEAL story collection



Hi folks,

(Warning: This is a long one!)

Recently, Court Merrigan, a writer friend of mine and I were in contact about his master’s thesis in which he was writing a chapter on “country noir.” I recommended my good friend Jane Bradley’s work to him and then thought about some of my own work, which I also suggested he take a look at.

Specifically, my first collection of short stories, titled MONDAY’S MEAL
from the university of North Texas Press, pub. 1997.

 

I consider this probably my best work, along with THE RAPIST and the forthcoming THE BITCH.

The reason I’m talking about it here, is that I know a lot of folks may not be aware of this book and I’m taking this opportunity to make you aware of it. Other than selling copies, I have another, ulterior motive for bringing this book to your attention. A publisher is interested in the reprint rights to it, but when I contacted the editor at UNT, he told me that they wouldn’t release those rights to me until it was completely sold out. Well, since there’s only a very few copies left in the warehouse, I thought I’d let you know and if enough people buy up the remaining copies, it can see new life… and that would make me ecstatic! Plus, I think you’ll find it to be a read you’ll enjoy.

Here’s what the NY Times had to say about Monday’s Meal:

The New York Times
November 16, 1997
By DENISE GESS
The sad wives, passive or violent husbands, parolees, alcoholics and other failures in Leslie H. Edgerton's short-story collection are pretty miserable people. And yet misery does have its uses. Raymond Carver elevated the mournful complaints of the disenfranchised in his work, and Edgerton makes an admirable attempt to do the same. He brings to this task an unerring ear for dialogue and a sure-handed sense of place (particularly New Orleans, where many of the stories are set). Edgerton has affection for even his most despicable characters -- ''boring'' Robert, who pours scalding water over his sleeping wife in ''The Last Fan''; Jake, the musician responsible for his own daughter's death in ''The Jazz Player''; and Tommy in ''I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger,'' whose plan to get hold of some money involves severing the arm of a rich socialite -- but he never quite takes the reader past the brink of horrible fascination into a deeper understanding. In the best story, ''My Idea of a Nice Thing,'' a woman named Raye tells us why she drinks: ''My job. I'm a hairdresser. See, you take on all of these other people's personalities and troubles and things, 10 or 12 of 'em a day, and when the end of the day comes, you don't know who you are anymore. It takes three drinks just to sort yourself out again.'' Here Edgerton grants both the reader and Raye the grace of irony, and without his authorial intrusion, we find ourselves caring about her predicament. 

Here’s what some other reviewers had to say:

“Those who enjoy reading Stephen King or watching The Twilight Zone will eat up these unique, often gruesome, at times humorous, short stories.” --School Library Journal

“This collection of short fiction by the author of The Death of Tarpons contains considerable variety of tone, voice, and subject matter, but the majority of the stories fall into two distinct groups. A large number of stories focus on troubled and deeply self-absorbed men who seem surprised to find themselves in failed romantic relationships. A number of other stories focus on marginal Pulp Fiction types who are haunted by personal demons and are drawn to violence. In stories that range in tone from the comic and farcical to the darkly tragic and grim, Edgerton draws memorable portraits of these dangerous and unpredictable characters.” --Library Journal

Leslie H. Edgerton's new collection fully meets John Updike's explanation of why we read short stories: "Each is a glimpse into another country: an occasion for surprise, an excuse for wisdom, and an argument for charity." The country of Edgerton's stories, in geographic terms, is New Orleans and the Texas Gulf Coast. In human terms, Edgerton's territory is peopled by nightclub musicians, cafe owners, teenage delinquents, inmates and ex-cons, the poor and uneducated, the heartless and violent, and a snooty former debutante.

Monday's Meal is a busy collection of twenty-one stories. A handful of these include recurring characters, enhancing the sense throughout the book that Edgerton is writing about a community rather than simply a series of individuals. The character with whom we become best acquainted is Evan, a.k.a. Pete: "Now Pete's not my real name, it's my middle name. Peter, actually. But when your first name's Evan, and you hang out where I do, you want to use something else." Evan/Pete hangs out in the seedier precincts of New Orleans. In "I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger" and "Ten Cents a Dance," he gets involved in, respectively, a botched kidnapping and the pursuit of an uninterested prostitute. His ex-wife, the blueblood narrator of "Princess," finds it horrific how he now "hangs out with low-lifes, even street people. God!" Evan/Pete, though, is a street-wise, philosophizing, get-by-as-best-you-can kind of guy who moves through a part of New Orleans never viewed from the tour bus.

Evan/Pete is an amusing character, yet not all of Edgerton's down-and -outers are. "The Jazz Player" portrays an angry young man desperate to release "that intense, throbbing, terrible, last blast of pent-up fury and frustration and guilt and anguish and loss and death." In "The Mockingbird Cafe," one of the strongest stories here for its concision, a black prison escapee endures a white cop's tormenting of him and then sullenly walks away. In "Rubber Band," a kid just released from the reformatory, made cynical and weary of the world, anticipates his own snapping point. While Edgerton can sketch a city hardship scene comparable to Joseph Mitchell's--and several of the stories have the casualness of familiar essays about them--Edgerton establishes the kind of convincing, and wrenching, interiority with his characters achieved by only the most adept fiction writers.
Edgerton does not write exclusively about people living on society's fringe. Sometimes his characters--as in "The Last Fan," about a dullard husband's violent turn, or "Voodoo Love," about a yuppie couple's falling out--are simply headed in that direction. To his credit, Edgerton aims for range in his characters. While suspicion of identity interlopers across ethnic and gender lines is often justified, the smart writer adopts various personae in order to strive for empathy and understanding, rather than appropriation. "My Idea of a Right Thing" exemplifies this purpose in its striking account of a woman's struggle with alcoholism and the (often) predominantly male world of Alcoholics Anonymous. Less dramatic, though no less vivid, "Telemarketing" is the story of a woman dealing with an emotionally distant husband and a pair of needy neighbors as she runs the cafe she owns and longs to have a child.

Even Edgerton's most harrowing stories, such as "Hard Times," about the deadly abandonment of a woman and her children, read effortlessly. The prose throughout is vibrant and precise. At times, the author's sharp ear for colloquial mannerisms tends to turn his speakers into Runyonesque caricatures, as when the high-brow belle in "Princess" exclaims indignantly, "Why, I'd just die!" On the other hand, such dialect adds as much local color as references to the Camellia Cafe or beignets. A case in point: after protesting how he was "bum-rapped on that litigious," the narrator of "Dream Flyer" gripes about the "effrippery" of his jailers for putting him in the same cell with an "orignal-diginal" like the Dream Flyer, who's scheduled to be "exterminated for something he didn't do." In fiction as in life, I suppose, better too much of a good thing than not enough.

Once again, the University of North Texas Press deserves high praise for its commitment to publishing superb contemporary fiction. Leslie H. Edgerton is a writer one should continue to seek out in the literary magazines and on the new-releases shelf.
Studies in Short Fiction, Summer, 1997,  by Peter Donahue, Sam Houston State University
COPYRIGHT 1997 Studies in Short Fiction
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group


On Amazon, it garnered nine reviews, all five stars:

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts of Raymond Carver, January 22, 2013
By 
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
As I read Les Edgerton's Monday's Meal, I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite American short story writers - Raymond Carver. Les has the same straight forward approach with his characters and stories, but if you read them again, you realize that hidden within one story is another in the background. Raymond Carver was famous for this and it is not easy to do. I gladly and with ease, place Les Edgerton beside Raymond Carver as one of our great American short story writers- no regrets.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story collection!, August 26, 2011
By 
Oryx (New York, United States) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
The stories in Blue Skies are terrific. Edgerton has a style that is deceptively brilliant, both in the language-stringing ordinary words together in new ways-and the way the stories unfold and end on an unusual note.
It's not the kind of book to read all at once. Each story makes you stop and think. They kind of catch a mood or emotion that is hard to define, and some have really stayed with me, in particular, "Hard Times". I highly recommend the collection.
Looking forward to reading his novels.


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hard side of life., June 30, 2011
By 
Paul D Brazill (Bydgoszcz, Poland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
When it comes to short stories, well, the American's rule the roost, they really do. Flannery O' Connor, Raymond Carver, Stephen King, Dorothy Parker, Charles Bukowski, Richard Ford, Kyle Minor. Loads and loads more.

And you can add Les Edgerton to that list.

Monday's Meal by Leslie H Edgerton was published in 1997 and contains twenty-one tales of dirt realism. Sharp slices of American life. They're set in New Orleans and Texas. Sometimes in bars or behind bars. They're about café owners, hairdressers, nightclub musicians, prisoners, ex-cons, drifters and drinkers.

Monday's Meal opens and closes `Blue Skies' and `Monday's Meal, tales of strained relationships.' But the real meat is sandwiched between them. And Monday's Meal is particularly meaty.

Some favourites: `The Mockingbird Café' is the story of a man in a low-rent bar trying to mind his own business; `Hard Times' is bleak and scary and brilliantly written; `The Last Fan' is a tragic look at a shattered marriage; `My Idea Of A Nice Thing' is a touching and sad story of an alcoholic's crumbling life;'Telemarketing,' is the story of a young couple just trying to get by; `I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger,' is a Runyonesque crime story.

And there's plenty more to enjoy in Monday's Meal. Edgerton has a strong and sure grasp of the lives of people who are standing on the edge of a precipice.



3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These stories are classics, April 17, 1999
By 
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
When I finished the last story in Monday's Meal I paused, reflected, and then read it right through again from the beginning. Part of the reason for my re-reading was a simple desire to repeat the pleasure; part of it was a desire to understand what made these elegantly constructed stories tick. Just where was I drawn from a realistic beginning into the banishment of the ordinary - the strange, ordinary world that some of these stories inhabit? Just where is the edge in these finely drawn personalities, the edge that leads to the end? One can also learn from these stories. The craft, the amazing economy deserve study, but one can just go along for the ride and enjoy. I would compare some of the plots to Ray Carver's in their structure, but Edgerton has it all over Carver in his depiction of personality. Edgerton's people have depth, they are all different, and the actions flow entirely from their natures. This is a collection not to be missed.


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edgerton is the last of the Great American Authors, February 19, 1999
By 
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
This collection will grab you by the heart and wrench it right out of your chest. The characters are hauntingly authentic as are the New Orleans and South Texas settings they inhabit. These are deeply troubled individuals coping with other troubled individuals who find solace only in the bottle and the arid soil underneath the soles of their battered Tony Lamas. Edgerton reigns as a supreme American author. A sort of Ray Carver meets Denis Johnson. A literary man who succeeds where the academics fail--he knows plot, he knows story, he knows action! The last of a great breed that includes Hemingway, Mailer and Jim Harrison. It's simple. If you don't read Les Edgerton, you lose.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkness visible., January 29, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
Edgerton's stories takes us down those side streets or out into the backwoods most of us have passed by. What we meet there are the people we have avoided all our lives. What we find is the human heart, its brightness and dark corners. And we leave and return to the same world we have always known, but it doesn't look the same. Joyously disturbing work, hard to ignore.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best collections I have read, January 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
'Monday's Meal' is aptly named . These stories are salty and pungent with a hint of bitter chicory. No one serves these morsels, the reader has to dip his fingers into the pot. They might come out burned, or dripping grease, but the tidbit they clutch is never bland. The characters are alive. We know them well, or we know someone who knew them and told us their stories. No one tells them as well as Les Edgerton. Some stories can be gulped down and digested later. Some like 'Hard Times' cannot be gulped. It must be taken in small sips, sometimes days apart. It will take you that long to identify the taste.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These are some of the best short stories I've read, January 21, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
"Monday's Meal" is aptly named . These stories are salty and pungent with a hint of bitter chicory. No one serves these morsels, the reader has to dip his fingers into the pot. They might come out burned, or dripping grease, but the tidbit they clutch is never bland. The characters are alive. We know them well, or we know someone who knew them and told us their stories. No one tells them as well as Les Edgerton. Some stories can be gulped down and digested later. Some like "Hard Times" cannot be gulped. It must be taken in small sips, sometimes days apart. It will take you that long to identify the taste.


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong hard hitting prose for deep thinkers., January 10, 1999
By 
Rosy Reader "loves to read" (Kingwood, WV (buried under 8 inches of snow)) - See all my reviews
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Monday's Meal (Paperback)
Monday's Meal is a collection of hard hitting short stories. If the reader is looking for a pleasant diversion, look elsewhere. If the reader wishes to be challenged to think about life and it's many complexities then choose Monday's Meal."It's Different" is this reviewer's favorite selection from the book. At first glance this seems like such a simple tale, but the story stayed with this reader long after the book's covers were closed. Monday's Meal is a book one will read again and again.

There is an added bonus to this book. The fantastic art of Lu Ann Barrow. There’s a great story behind this cover. During its publication, my publisher, Fran Vick, and her crew, including my editor, Charlotte Wright, couldn’t come up with a cover idea they liked. Then, one day as she was leaving for the office, Fran happened to glance at a painting she owned hanging in the foyer of her home. It was a painting by the acclaimed artist Lu Ann Barrow, titled Rain Dance. “This is perfect,” she said. As it happens, Fran knew Ms. Barrow personally and took a chance and called her, asking what it would cost to use her art for the cover. To her amazement, Ms. Barrow graciously said she could use it gratis!

It was perfect.

Today, short story collections are easily published due to the ebook phenomena. In those days, it was very difficult to get a collection published by a legitimate publisher. The “rules” were that at least half of the stories had to have been previously published by prestigious literary magazines. The other rule was that there had to be a theme that connected all the stories. Well, I’d satisfied the first requirement—every one of the stories had been published by some of the best litmags out there—places like The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Kansas Quarterly/Arkansas Review, Whiskey Island Review and others. One story subsuquently appeared in Houghton-Mifflin’s “Best American Mystery Stories.” But… there really wasn’t a theme to them. They represented a variety of subjects, voices, themes. To climb over that obstacle, I came up with the idea of titling it “Monday’s Meal.”

That came from the Southern tradition of Monday’s being wash days. The deal was, every Monday, the wife did the weekly washing… while also tending to the ten kids she had, her husband, the house cleaning, and all of the other chores, including feeding her brood. Eventually, a common meal emerged. Usually, it was a form of either stew or gumbo. Something that could be put on the stove and when she had a few extra minutes, she could run in and throw in a new ingredient. The gumbo cooked all day long. The ingredients thrown into the pot were all over the place. At first glance, it didn’t look as if they’d go together, but at the end of the day they all combined to create a wonderful, delicious dish. In our house, we always had gumbo and one of the best ingredients (in season) was when my grandma put in crab eggs. I gave the collection the name of Monday’s Meal to indicate a kind of gumbo where a bunch of unrelated ingredients came together to create a tasty meal.

Personally, I felt it was a really neat idea… and so did Fran and Charlotte.

Which was why Lu Ann Barrow’s painting was so perfect. It shows a poor family, cavorting in a sudden summer shower in front of their shack. In the background, you can see the family wash on a clothesline. It’s the women of the family (the father was at his work), along with the family dogs. There’s even an old-fashioned washing machine on the porch.

It was… absolutely perfect. Almost as if Lu Ann Barrow had painted it just for this book!

Anyway, it’s a cover that the publisher could never have afforded but that we were able to get because of the largesse of Ms. Barrow. When you buy the book, you also get a cover of an incredible work of art.

One more “inside” bit of info. One of the stories is one I wrote when I was 12 years old and when it was published both by a literary magazine and in this collection, not a word was changed from that early version. The first three who can guess which story it is, I’ll send a copy of my newest novel, THE RAPIST to—either the ebook version or the paperback—your choice. Post your guesses here in the Comments.




Okay. Infomercial over. Hope you glom onto a copy so UNT sells out and I can get back the rights and reissue it as both an ebook and paperback.

Thanks for considering it!

Blue skies,
Les

And, thanks for your support and helping make me a happy camper!

(What a happy camper looks like in the wild...)

7 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Monday's Meal is a great book and well deserved of a wider audience.

Les Edgerton said...

Thank you, Paul. From a writer of your renown, this means everything!

Les Edgerton said...

Thank you, Paul. From a writer of your renown, this means everything!

dawnall said...

I already have it and it rocks! I hope it sells out quickly.

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Dawn!

Sarah Faurote said...

Thank you for using my review in your blog. I hope you sell all remaining copies of Monday's Meal. I was blessed to receive it as a gift. If you do not have a copy of this book of short stories, please buy it as soon as you can. It truly is great Literature. Les, as always, it was great to see you on Saturday. Rock on, dear brother and mentor. AWESOME!

Les Edgerton said...

Thanks, Sarah! You're the best and I had a blast Saturday! Didn't get to hear you sing though... Or Kevin... I think that's probably a good thing...