Book Review: Woodrell goes for the throat in collection

“The Outlaw Album” (Little, Brown and Co.), by Daniel Woodrell

Daniel Woodrell’s stories leave impressions in your mind like threats carved in the paint of your fender with the murderous point of a razor-sharp 12-inch hunting knife.

The Missouri author’s first collection of short stories, “The Outlaw Album,” is unforgettable, spare, unforgiving and just plain hard from the opening sentence of the first story, “The Echo of Neighborly Bones”: “Once Boshell finally killed his neighbor he couldn’t seem to quit killing him.”

It just gets more grim from there.

Once Boshell is done killing and killing and killing that bothersome Northerner who just moved in, there’s a particularly nasty piece of work to take care of in “Uncle”; a father just knows he knows the man or men who snatched his daughter in “Florianne”; and a possibly random encounter changes everything in “Night Stand.”

Woodrell, whose novel “Winter’s Bone” was made into an Academy Award-nominated film, is almost famously underappreciated. A writer whose words flow with the elemental power of Cormac McCarthy, William Gay and Chris Offutt, he’s chipped an impression of the Ozarks and its people in stone that will endure time.

Yet these 12 stories represent some of the few actual pages available to those who would get to know Woodrell. The all-too-brief novels “Winter’s Bone” and “Tomato Red” are widely available, but the rest of his back catalog has become difficult to come by without the aid of a few Benjamin Franklins.

Hopefully that will change soon. Until then, true believer, let these stories be your Bible.

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