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:
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 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.—Denise Gess. The New York
Times Book Review, November 16, 1997
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.
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
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
COPYRIGHT 1997 Studies in Short Fiction
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group
Les Edgerton’s stories is like listening to those old World War II broadcasts
from the London blitz, with the reporter crouching under a restaurant table,
microphone in hand, while the bombs drop on the city and the ceiling caves in.
Edgerton reports on the world and the news is not good. There’s a kind of wacky
wisdom in these bulletins from the underside of life; the stories are full of
people you hope never move in next door, for whom ordinary life is an
impossible dream. This is good fiction; Edgerton writes lean and nasty prose.
Dr. Francois Camoin,
Director, Graduate School of English, University of Utah and author of Benbow
and Paradise, Like Love, But Not Exactly, Deadly Virtues, The End of the
World Is Los Angeles and Why Men Are Afraid of Women.
Edgerton is much more than a fiction writer or a story teller. When you read his
work, your ears prick up, your eyes go wide, and your spine tingles. You get
the sense that Edgerton has been there, lived the lives of his characters,
fought their fights, cried their tears, placed their bets, drank their Wild
Turkey, smoked their cigarettes. He writes with a stunning accuracy, a
convincing authority and a stark reality. At the same time, he strikes a
balance between beauty, sensitivity and humor. Edgerton isn’t concerned with
keeping your interest. He wants to reach into your heart, tear it out, hold it
for you while it’s still beating! His New Orleans and South Texas settings are
as rough, romantic and quintessentially American as the writer himself. His
themes are Ray Carver meets Charles Bukowski. Edgerton is not just another stunning
narrative talent, he is an important narrative authority--a master of his or
any other generation.
Author of As Catch Can, Permanence, and Godchild.
is filled to bursting with writing you can taste. Whether dining on bisque and
blackened redfish at an upscale cafe, or eating rank mule meat in a pine board
cabin, the characters in Edgerton’s world bite down hard and grind up one
another with their back teeth. Their authenticity is palpable as soft-shelled clams;
these are sad, mean, fully human characters who long for connection almost as
fiercely as they fear it. Monday’s Meal is a most satisfyingly vivid and
Stevenson, Author of The Life Stone of Singing Bird
Edgerton’s best stories are uncompromising in their
casual amorality. They stare you down over the barrel of a gun, rip you up
whether or not the trigger gets squeezed.
Diane Lefer, Creative writing teacher at UCLA and on
the MFA in Writing Faculty at Vermont College. Author of The Circles I Move
In and has received fellowships from the NEA as well as five PEN Syndicated
From his New Orleans’ setting, Les Edgerton creates
a vivid and compelling world. We feel the rhythm of his language and live in
the skins of his characters. Altogether, a memorable experience.
Gladys Swan, Faculty member, Missouri University and
on the MFA in Writing faculty at Vermont College. Author of A Visit To
Stranger, Do You Believe in Cabeza de Vaca? and other novels and
Edgerton updates Everyman for the turn of this century. Their resumes filled
with failed relationships, hapless schemes and desultory crimes, his characters
inhabit some of the hardest ground south of the Mason-Dixon, a place where the
tragic often turns a corner only to collide with the comic, and where the
closest thing to hope is a shrug.
Carol Anshaw, Author
of Aquamarine and Seven Moves.
A recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in
Reviewing, winner of the Carl Sandburg Award and the Society of Midland Authors
Award, and a recipient of a NEA Fellowship.
tragedy, all part of 'Monday's Meal'
a few days to spend in New Orleans? Or some other part of Texas, like Freeport?
"Monday's Meal" is Leslie
H. Edgerton's collection of short stories that take readers to cafes, lonely
apartments and to Big Easy dance halls, bars and restaurants.
The burly, bald man in the Saints
jacket pictured on the book's back is a hair dresser. Edgerton also teaches
creative writing online for the UCLA Extension Writers Program. Some of his
characters are hair dressers, or dog groomers, too.
It was my pleasure to relax with his
character studies. In "Blue Skies" a man think about how his mentally
challenged daughter will always take her bite from the middle of her sandwich,
not from the corner like adults do.
"My Idea of a Nice Thing"
stops in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and "Hard Times" captures
the despair of a family starving in their cabin. In "A Shortness of
Breath" a old herb woman reveals why all the men in a family seem to die
at age 47—they really die when they use up all the breaths they've been
There's humor and tragedy in this
University of North Texas Press release ($14.95, 817-565-2142). I love how his
characters' actions point out the difference between New Orleans natives and
tourists. Port Arthur News, August 2, 1998
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.
of 21 unsettling stories will appeal to readers looking for nontraditional
contemporary plots with characters living on the fringes of society. These
strange tales often revolve around macabre happenings, such as dismemberment,
murder, kidnapping, cannibalism, or death. Many are set in the French Quarter
of New Orleans with its jazz musicians, numerous bars, night walkers, and even
voodoo. Several selections will haunt readers for some time as events often
take a morbid twist; others will leave them wondering about the endings. YAs
who enjoy reading Stephen King or watching The Twilight Zone will eat up
these unique, often gruesome, at times humorous, short stories.—Dottie
Kraft. School Library Journal, January, 1998
Bouterse's WRITERS AT WORK (KTXK Radio)
Book: MONDAY'S MEAL Stories by Leslie H. Edgerton
in the older South, was traditionally washday, and a week's worth of dirty
laundry meant a day of hard labor. Large families still had to be fed, so
Monday's meals were often "one pot" concoctions with a little bit of
everything, including surprise ingredients. But simmered all together Monday's
meal was frequently the best meal of the week. Thus Texas born Leslie Edgerton
entitled his first collection of short stories MONDAY'S MEAL.
Edgerton's stories are a concoction,
including surprise ingredients. They happen in all kinds of places: New
Orleans, Indiana, the small towns of Texas, the streets of the Big Easy, the
poverty stricken South. The people who populate the stories include both the
predictable and the unusual. For example, not this description of the
protagonist in his story "The Bad Part of Town:" "He was so mean
that wherever he was standing became the bad part of town." Other
characters include dance hall girls, recovering alcoholics making tough
choices, jazz players, Arnold and Amelia Critchen, victims of hard times, a
spoiled Princess, or an old man gathering seashells and remembering. The cast
is large and varied and demanding because a reader cannot leave them without
having shared a bit of his own humanity and discovered a little of that all
important inner self.
...Edgerton's characters win a few
and lose a few.
'''The Street of Dreams. I guess
we've all been there. Historian Bonaro Overstreet in an essay "Little
Story, What Now?" explores the possibilities for the survival of the short
story, a nineteenth century infant. She decides that, despite its youth, the
short story will survive well into the twenty-first century because of its
resilience, its ability to distill the experience of its time, whether inside
or outside its characters and to give that experience back to readers so they
see themselves more clearly. Edgerton achieves that potential in his mixture of
stories, a rare concoction; clearly a meal which lives up to its name.—"Writers
at Work" is heard on KTXK Stereo 91.5 FM, the Broadcast voice of Texarkana
College, Mondays at 6:00 PM; Wednesdays at 12:25 PM, and Fridays at 8:00 AM.
subjects and skills (reference to preceding review of Katherine L. Hester's
book, "Eggs for Young America") mark the work of Leslie H. Edgerton,
who peoples the tales of Monday's Meal with alcoholics, inmates, and an
abandoned family that survives on mule stew. The Freeport native, who lives
today in Fort Wayne, Indiana rates extra credit for his hook 'em openings
("He was so mean that wherever he was standing became the bad part of
town") and punch finales ("Color my ass gone").—Anne
Dingus. Texas Monthly, 22 October, 1997.
no question that Leslie Edgerton loves to write... he does it so well! Edgerton
deals with people often called 'losers' in a wonderfully poignant way and his
affection for his characters gives strength to this collection of stories, one of
which has received the Pushcart nomination. Join our support of this fine
writer which Arts Indiana Magazine calls "one of Indiana's best
writers."—Border's Bookstore Newsletter, September 27, 1997.
Brazill gave 5 of 5 stars to:
Meal by Leslie Edgerton
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
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!
Paul Brazill, Author, A
Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Too Many Crooks, The Last Laugh, and Kill Me Quick!
Thanks for reading this. Hope you enjoy the read as much as I enjoyed writing these stories!