American Originals

The novellas and stories in AMERICAN ORIGINALS convey the power of the desert to swallow people—literally, through the rituals of labor, or through the raptures of ecstatic vision induced by blessings or madness—and people’s ability to forge connections in spite of extreme conditions. Each piece in this thematically-linked collection assumes a unique shape, whether poetically compressed, echoing (only to break) the contours of mystery stories, or redolent of the forms of classical prayer. The characters here learn, sometimes the hard way, the truth of T.S. Eliot’s insight that the “end of all our exploring” in life is to “arrive where we started” and to know, for the first time, who we really are. (more…)

The Empire of the Dead: Stories

Empire of the DeadIn the spare and deliberate stories in The Empire of the Dead, through situations both comic and bluntly melancholy, characters weigh their indecision against the consequences of choice. Through a series of five linked stories, we meet Bern, a New York City architect yearning for a return to “first principles”–the “initial euphoria, the falling-in-love” that led him to consider a life devoted to sheltering others. In his ministrations to colleagues and friends, his memories of magical building feats now in the past, he learns the limits and breadth of joy and need. In another tale, we meet a young painter in a Gulf Coast refinery town struggling to differentiate beauty from affliction. (more…)

One Day the Wind Changed: Stories

One Day the Wind ChangedThe sixteen stories in Tracy Daugherty’s fourth collection of short fiction explore American deserts-real geographical spaces as well as metaphorical areas of emptiness and possibility. The stories are mostly set in the desert Southwest, though the concluding long story, which features a Texas exile, is set in New York City. Several of the stories overtly deal with stars and astronomers; many feature architecture and the built environment; most all describe the star-studded skies of the West. Daugherty’s characters struggle with asthma, night fears, inertia, and the sense of being isolated in a world full of people. (more…)

Late in the Standoff: Stories

Late in the StandoffIn these four stories and a novella, Tracy Daugherty focuses on unresolved conflicts among family and friends. In Late in the Standoff, the stories ask, What are the limits of intimacy? How can we really know each other? What happens when the lines between deception and honesty become blurred? The standoffs in Tracy Daugherty’s third collection vividly demonstrate that even politics is a kind of family squabble whose elusive solutions often come from unexpected quarters. (more…)

Axeman’s Jazz: A Novel

Axeman's JazzA stunning tour de force, Tracy Daugherty’s fourth novel explores the volatility of race, class, and economics as they affect three generations of a Houston, Texas family, and traces the rise and decline of an inner city neighborhood from the point of view of a prodigal daughter, as Telisha Washington returns after many years to renew old ties and come to terms with her family’s enigmatic heritage. (more…)

It Takes a Worried Man: Stories

It Takes a Worried ManThe stories in Tracy Daugherty’s second collection move through the streets of Houston with the quick step of country music and the melancholy humor of the blues. Romance and friendships develop in unlikely places, as people meet across the divides of race and class. In the tradition of James Joyce’s Dubliners, Daugherty’s stories explore the highs and lows of city life with its messiness and grace, celebrate the surprises and contradictions of community, and present a kaleidoscopic portrait of contemporary America’s energy and vitality. (more…)

The Boy Orator: A Novel

The Boy OratorChildhood innocence and political ambition meet just prior to the First World War in the person of Harry Shaughnessy, an Oklahoma farmer’s son. Gifted with a booming speaking voice and a charismatic presence, the boy learns the socialist credo from his father, who takes him on the road, from laborer’s camps to county fairs to Oklahoma City. Daugherty seamlessly integrates historical figures-Eugene Debs, Oscar Ameringer, Kate O’Hare-into the compelling fictionalized tale of his own real-life grandfather’s struggles for American workers and his inevitable disillusionment with the defeat of the socialist cause. (more…)

The Woman in the Oil Field: Stories

The stories in this timely collection range from intimate family portraits to broader pictures of art and culture and politics. From the sometimes humorous predicaments of the American gender wars and domestic change, to class conflicts, to artistic innovation with its personal costs, to the horrors of the Stalinist period and the more recent Middle Eastern wars, the twentieth century’s violent history haunts these stories. (more…)

What Falls Away: A Novel

What Falls AwayTilton, Nevada is not your average little community. Though the Cold War is over, the Atomic Diner still features Fallout Burgers. Underground explosions still shatter the night. Years of testing have poisoned the ground-and some of Jon Chase’s neighbors. As he and his wife, Peg, try to protect their young children, Jon, an idealistic arts commissioner, faces his own inner struggles. Timely and compassionate, this novel-based on real events-asks important questions: What do people do when changing national priorities eliminate their life’s work? What new values will the country embrace, and who will decide? (more…)

Desire Provoked: A Novel

Desire ProvokedForty-one-year old Sam Adams makes maps for a living, but he can’t find the right route for his own life. His wife has left him, there’s a mysterious figure prowling around his backyard, and his boss is demanding he falsify maps for the benefit of real estate speculation. Even his young children abuse him, with embarrassing questions and obscene exclamations. With this inventive, ingenious novel, Tracy Daugherty has carved a distinctive niche for himself in contemporary fiction. The prose style is strikingly original, an inspired blend of slapstick and metaphysics. (more…)