My first collection of short stories, Monday's Meal, was released in ebook format today from the good folks at Down and Out Press. It was originally published as a paperback by the University of North Texas Press and was nominated for the Violet Crown Book Award. This is the writing I'm the proudest of. It received rave reviews by such as the NT Times,Texas Monthly, Publisher's Weekly, the School Library Journal, and by such august literary organizations as Studies in Short Fiction. Some of the brightest literary writers gave it their thumbs-up.
Two of the stories were written when I was 12 and 13. At 12 I wrote, "Hard Times" and a year later, I lay on my couch and wrote "Broken Seashells." Most of the other stories were written before I was 21. Currently, at the behest of my agent, Svetlana Pironko, who urged me to expand "Hard Times" into a novel (which I'm doing) and who told me the story has "haunted her" since she read it and said that if I wrote it well, it could rival NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.
The story, "I Shoulda Seen a Credit Arranger" which appeared in the South Carolina Review, was later expanded into my novel titled THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING and also the screenplay of the same title which placed as a Finalist in both the Writer's Guild and the Best of Austin competitions.
And THE MOCKINGBIRD CAFE and another story not in this collection, IN THE ZONE, were both published by the august litmag, High Plains Literary Review, whose editor, Dr. Robert O. Greer, told me several years later that he assumed I was a black writer (Dr. Greer is a black man) and was very surprised to discover I was white. That was quite a complement!
I'm very proud that these stories represent a myriad of voices, including a black man, a woman, a deranged prison inmate and many other personas. I think if you didn't see a single name on this collection, you'd just assume it was a collection of a number of writers. I really don't see many contemporary writers capable of doing this and that gives me a lot of pride.
I hope that this book will be exposed to an entirely new generation and that they find it compelling.
If you do read it and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. That's the single best thing anyone can do to help out a writer.
Here's what others had to say about MM:
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.
This collection of short fiction by the author of The Death of Tarpons (LJ 3/15/96) 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. These men stoically endure the collapse of relationships they have helped destroy, and Edgerton handles the psychological complexities of both his male and his female protagonists very effectively. 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. Many of the stories in this collection are set in and around New Orleans, and Edgerton describes this milieu well. Recommended. Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community-Technical Coll., Ct.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Who makes the best beer in the world? Maybe the Czech or Belgians. Definitely not the Danes. Or the Americans.
But when it comes to short stories, well, the Americans 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.
And Les Edgerton will soon have a new short story collection published by the hip new kids on the block, Snubnose Press, which can’t be bad!