These ten stories mostly fall into the category of crime fiction. Their titles point to dimensions of the Appalachian experience that are well-publicized, including quilts, serpents, haints and hellbenders. “Oh. My. God. Have y’all read Chris McGinley’s Coal Black: Stories? If not, hasten to them. This shit is brilliant, this shit is real. It launches with ‘Hellbenders’ and doesn’t slow down. Lord, this is great story telling. It’s Appalachians trying to survive, trying to get past the mines. If that means drugs, so be it. As McGinley writes in ‘These Hills,’ ‘All this shit around us. Drugs, poverty, sickness. The forest is the only good thing left around here.’ Beautifully written stories; this is a stunning collection.” —Rob Peirce. “Chris McGinley’s aptly named Coal Black grabs the reader by the shirt collar and doesn’t turn loose. These stories are as dark as the coal that is no longer in the mountains McGinley writes about . . . These are tough tales about tough people and I can’t imagine someone picking up this book and not being impressed. I know I was.” —Charles Dodd White. “Mesmerizing and intense, the stories in Coal Black are a treat to read, every honed sentence reminding us that we’re in excellent hands as we travel into the darkness of haunting crime and equally haunted countryside. This collection rocks.” —Rusty Barnes. “Brutal yet beautiful, sparse but with moments of lush emotional resonance, Chris McGinley’s debut collection of short fiction, Coal Black, heralds a new and necessary voice in crime fiction. The prose is so sharp that it begs to be read slowly, to linger with the reader, as McGinley’s stories explore the effects of a lost industry and the devastation of opioids in rural Appalachia. Rarely have I come across a debut so assured. This is a book that deserves an audience, and stories that deserve to be remembered.” —E.A. Aymar. Chris McGinley teaches middle school in Lexington, Kentucky.
Charleston, West Virginia: Shotgun Honey: 2019. 156 pages, trade paperback.