cover image Dying Light and Other Stories

Dying Light and Other Stories

Donald Hays, . . MacAdam/Cage, $23 (261pp) ISBN 978-1-59692-125-2

A University of Arkansas writing teacher, Hays submits his first collection more than 15 years after his novel The Hangman's Children and offers exemplars of the genre, with tight plotting, deep idiosyncrasies, strong dialogue and everyday difficult situations. The characters and settings are mostly and winningly Southern. The results, however, feel a bit airless. In the first-person "Private Dance," a white high school coach's wife leaves him for the black coach in the next town; the cuckold's contradictory disquisitions and erratic behavior drive the story forward, but the drawn gun, punched-out cop and strip-club blow job feel preordained from the moment Coach Raymond gets into his truck. "Material" features a writing teacher who hasn't published in 12 years, and who is having an affair with a student. The story begins as the student's jilted ex crashes through the window while teacher and student are in flagrante; as the cops take the ex away, the teacher "had never been more aroused." A mental institution escape by an older white man and younger black woman, a Russian orphan scam and stepparenting gone very wrong round things out. (July 15)