Volt by Alan Heathcock
I picked this book up and immediately wished I’d scribed the damn thing myself. The first story, “The Staying Freight,” in my opinion ranks next to Larry Brown’s “Samaritans” as it not so much keeps your eyes glued to the page but welds the prose into your brain, as a father confronts the demons of guilt from the death of his son. And this sets the tone for the entire book of 100-proof reading material.
The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
Here’s the blood poet of the Ozarks. He says more in one sentence than most writers can say in an entire book. Like his novels, each story in The Outlaw Album takes on the human condition by making the dirt and ill will of downtrodden characters shine on the page like no other writer writing today. If you haven’t read Daniel Woodrell then you’re dead to me.
The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Donald Pollock tells you a story by nailing your privates to a chair with Scripture, damnation, and blood—lots of blood—and won’t give you the option to quit reading, as the intersecting story lines build to a tension that will leave you paralyzed and salivating for more.
The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart by Glenn Taylor
Quite possibly the best storyteller no one has gotten hip to—yet. Spinning a wild tale of moonshining, snake handling, sharpshooting, the coal mining wars, and even a stint as a journalist for a small-town newspaper while running from his rollicking past. This is a book to be searched for, read over and over until the binding glue crumbles and you have to staple it back together for your grandkids to read.
Dust Devils by Roger Smith
Ever wonder what a normal man would do if he lost his family to a killer? Read this book and take a tour of an adrenalized hell as a husband is left with blame in one hand and redemption in the other. Roger Smith’s words will leave bruises throughout your endocrine system while pumping you up with page-turning prose. Call it pulp, hardboiled, or crime fiction. I call it badass writing!