cover image Town Smokes

Town Smokes

Pinckney Benedict. Ontario Review Press, $10.95 (168pp) ISBN 978-0-86538-058-5

In these nine stories, Benedict evokes the world of hard-bitten Southern men who live in shabby weatherbeaten houses or rickety trailers, who work in tire factories or slaughterhouses, who are slow to speak but quick to explode in anger, and whose women are tangential figures. Benedict deftly delineates his characters and has a good ear for the cadence of Southern speech. But the stories, although powerful, are too grim to be read in one sitting. Most include gory if not violent events: the shooting and flaying of a snake in ""The Sutton Pie Safe''; the killing of a hog in ``Booze'';a barroom fight in ``Hackberry''; and various episodes of stabbing, shooting and dogfighting in ``Pit.'' The title story is as bleak as the others: a mountain teenager is robbed of some of his dead father's possessions at gunpoint as he walks to town to buy cigarettes. At 22, the author is a talent to watch, but one hopes that he injects a note of lightness into future stories. (May)