cover image The Man Back There and Other Stories

The Man Back There and Other Stories

David Crouse, Author . Sarabande $15.95 (178p) ISBN 978-1-932511-63-5

Crouse follows his Flannery O’Connor award–winning Copy Cats with this moody dirge of nine deeply felt stories, the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize. In “The Forgotten Kingdom,” Denny, a technical-support operator for a video-game company that’s “lingering on the edge of death,” is unsure why he keeps showing up uninvited at his former girlfriend’s house—maybe to hurt her or make her feel the emptiness that plagues his own life, or maybe, he considers, “he was just a bad person.” Another borderline stalker, a lonely, unambitious animal-control officer, reappears at his ex-wife’s house in “The Castle on the Hill,” where she is now remarried and having a party. The title story finds a couple, Sharon and Sweets, stumbling shakily out of a bar after Sweets gets in a fight with Sharon’s insolent ex; although Sharon imagines he is defending her honor, Sweets has his own motivation. Crouse digs into dark places, and while readers may cringe, the author’s humane handling of his troubled, psychically scarred characters renders their pain authentic and universal, even when their actions are questionable. (Aug.)