cover image Get ’em Young, Treat ’em Tough, Tell ’em Nothing

Get ’em Young, Treat ’em Tough, Tell ’em Nothing

Robin McLean. And Other Stories, $17.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-913505-53-0

McLean (Pity the Beast) offers up a gritty and well-honed collection of mischief, desperation, and disaster in the American West. The multilayered highlight, “But for Herr Hitler,” follows a young family’s efforts at homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness until the mother, Iris, ends up with brain cancer. To fund Iris’s healthcare, her combat veteran husband, Eric, sells off their land, and he copes by drinking with buddies who share “brotherly jawlines” and toxic views toward immigrants, while Iris imagines what her life would be if her Jewish ancestors hadn’t been forced from Vienna by WWII. In the title story, a guard at a U.S. military base gets blamed for the night guard’s drunken shenanigans, causing him to lose his chance for evacuation during a strike from an unknown enemy. “Cliff Ordeal” channels the 1953 Robert Ryan film Inferno with the story of a man who accidentally falls during a hike and hangs onto the side of a cliff and imagines his rescuers as each day passes to the next. In the wondrously bizarre “Pterodactyl,” an archaeologist on a boondoggle in Las Vegas confides to a young stranger about a colleague’s betrayal, which allegedly involves the appearance of a live dinosaur in the desert. With merciless prose and a bold vision, McLean continues to impress. Agent: Stephanie Steiker, Regal Hoffmann. (Oct.)