Mama Tried, edited by James R. Tuck Down & Out Books, 2016.
Joe Lansdale prefaced one of his most famous stories with a note that is was “a story that does not flinch.” Although Lansdale is not in this book, I think that spirit permeates this anthology.
These stories do not flinch. They dig into criminal worlds, telling taut stories that kept me engaged throughout. As you can see from the cover, each story here is inspired by a classic “outlaw country” song – whether by title alone or riffing on the lyrics as well. The tales run the gamut from law enforcement point-of-view to criminal POV. Criminals within criminals, good cops who might use questionable methods, meth biker gangs, alpaca farms, dog fights, booze running, war veterans, jobs and drug deals gone wrong, lovers who are no good for one another — they’re all here.
One of the anthology’s strongest points is its variety. Nineteen songs inspired these tales of outlawry:
Whiskey River by Charles R. Rutledge
L.A. Freeway by J.L Abramo
Branded Man by Mel Odom
Pardon Me (I’ve Got Someone To Kill) by Eric Beetner
Seven Spanish Angels by Riley Miller
Jolene by Grant Jerkins
I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised by Eryk Pruitt
God’s Gonna Cut You Down by Jay Requard
Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This by Bobby Nash Danger
Dread by Delilah S. Dawson
Ain’t No Grave by Ryan Sayles
Copperhead Road by Ken Lizzi
Drunken Poet’s Dream by Trey R. Barker
Just Along For The Ride by Michael Bunker
Blood Red and Goin’ Down by Tommy Hancock
Delia’s Gone by James A. Moore
Don’t You Think This Outlaw Shit Done Got Out of Hand? by Levi Black
Snake Farm by Les Edgerton
Truth Or Consequences (Waitin’ Around to Die) by Christa Faust.
I enjoyed all these stories. As with any anthology, one or two weren’t pitch perfect for me but anyone else might enjoy the ones I felt were flat. And good news: The “other titles” page lists a Mama Tried Volume 2. Let’s hope we see it sooner rather than later!