Knockemstiff is a collection of 18 short stories set in Knockemstiff, Ohio.
Reviewing a book of short stories is a tricky business, especially if you haven't been reviewing them as you go. Furthermore, I'm not a huge short story fan so I don't read collections unless one comes along that will knock my pants off and sell them to the highest bidder before I get a chance to put them back on. Knockemstiff is that short story collection.
Eighteen stories of redneckery most foul are contained in this book. Some are funny, some are sad, all are powerful. Even the funnier stories have a sad undercurrent to them, like the citizens of Knockemstiff know they don't have much of a chance.
The tales are connected by common characters and the setting. Donald Ray Pollock paints a bleak picture of life in a tiny redneck town, though it isn't totally devoid of happiness. As for the tales themselves, I can't even begin to narrow down which one is my favorite. It's not every day you read a short story collection that features washed up bodybuilders, drug dealers, and a kid that gets caught having sex with his sister's doll in the outhouse.
To be honest, I was picturing Knockemstiff to have a feel akin to Winter's Bone. Instead, it reminds of Joe Lansdale's Texas tales. Since Pollock named the bar owner Hap Collins, I doubt the resemblance is completely unintentional.
I can't recommend this book enough. This is one of the easiest five stars I've ever awarded.