Here’s what Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply had to say about Volt, Alan Heathcock’s short story collection debut: “The stories in VOLT are intense, suspenseful, and utterly compelling. Heathcock writes about violence and bad luck and bad choices with a cool, grim eye that recalls Cormac McCarthy, yet he also approaches the hard lives of his stoic Westerners with great empathy and compassion and heart–a kind of miraculous combination. By turns hair-raising and tender, the tales in this collection draw you into a tough, bleak, beautiful world that you won’t soon forget.”
Some very high praise, I’d say. Not really a surprise, though, when you think about it. Alan has had fiction published all over the place, and his stories have been selected as part of The Best Mystery Stories anthology. Volt is published by the very fine Graywolf Press, and has received favorable and even starred reviews from a number of those periodicals we all wish would review us so well. Originally from Chicago, Alan now teaches at Boise State University and is Writer-in-Residence for the city of Boise and a Literature Fellow for the state of Idaho.
Beyond all of this, Alan has one of the coolest writing spaces I’ve ever seen. Below is his description.
Alan: My writing studio is a 1967 Roadrunner travel trailer that for most of its life was an Idaho State Police surveillance vehicle, and is now packed with books and trophies and random oddities–in style, it’s urban-redneck-gypsy-writer chic. Having a wife and three kids, it’s perfect in that I can actually leave the house to go to work, to be out of earshot, to be away from someone asking me to open something or find something or wipe something, but also be close enough to come in to have lunch with the family, and get wifi from the house. Inside, there’s old beautiful wood paneling, which smells like woods and feels like wood and feels cozy and connects me with the past. With my wife’s help, I took pages from my favorite books and decoupaged them over the kitchenette area, so every time I get a drink of water, or heat up some tea, Hemingway and Joyce and James Dickey and Joyce Carol Oates stare me right in the face, daring me to bring my A-game. I’ve hung framed letters I received from authors I admire, my prize being a type-written letter Joy Williams wrote me after she’d read my book. Another favorite piece is a picture of “The Preacher” from the Charles Laughton movie, The Night of the Hunter. The Preacher hangs over my head, glowering down over me, H-A-T-E tattooed across one hand, L-O-V-E across the other, him always watching, always making sure I’m writing what’s right and righteous. In short, the VOLT-mobile (what my kids call it) is a magical place, a space that transports me from my side-driveway and deep into the recesses of my imagination, into all its fear and whimsy, its questions and concerns.
At the back of the house, Helen entered the master bedroom. A canopy bed with mahogany posts filled most of the room. Helen gazed out the bedside window at the flooded world, the dark roofs of houses spread wide like barges on a big river. Everything smelled of soil and fish. So much water, so much washed over, but perhaps when they’d start anew everything could be better, everything forgiven. Perhaps God would allow the girl to be dredged up by the flood and found, her parents granted their closure, yet the unrighteous cause of her death kept a gracious unknown.
Helen walked to a bureau and searched the drawers, one filled with scarves and nylons, the next with panties neatly folded and separated by color. She moved to the closet and shone her light over the clothes; pants at one end, then blouses, then dresses. Sweaters were on a shelf above the hanging clothes. She pulled the red sweater from the middle of a stack, unfolded it to be sure it was the right one. The silver thread of the embroidered snowflakes twinkled in Helen’s spotlight. She held the sweater to her face; it smelled faintly of Connie’s perfume. It was an impulse, and Helen could not explain why she needed it other than to say it was something clean and lovely in a world of mud. She hugged the sweater to her throat and lay down on the bed, the mattress soft and pulling her in, her boot heels flat and heavy on the water-logged carpet.
→Find out more about Alan Heathcock, read reviews of his stellar, award-winning collection Volt, get information about upcoming events and readings where you can hear from the author himself; visit his website: alanheathcock.com. Thanks so much, Alan. Writing readers, don’t forget, you, too, can submit your work and workspace for inclusion in View From the Keyboard. Guidelines to the right. PMc.←