Words That Work

In the late eighties, I met Sean Carswell, an aspiring writer in a large classroom of remarkably, privileged young people with similar ambitions.  Most were content to write stories about the bliss of first sex.  Sean was different.  He was a writer with a strong fictional voice that brought to the page a different reality, one that Tom Franklin has called the dirty South: a south seen without the suffocating moonlight and magnolia romanticism of a Gone with the Wind South.  Sean wrote stories about working class guys, those he knew first hand, his people, my people.  It was easy to lean across the aisle between rows of desks, grin and whisper, “you kick ass, son, keep it up.”  He’ll tell you that I suggested he put some real women in his stories.  I don’t remember exactly how I put that, but what he wrote in his review of Dream Chaser sounds right.

It didn’t surprise me when I learned that his first novel was titled Drinks for the Little Guy, and that he’s gone on to publish two additional novels (Train Wreck Girl and Madhouse Fog) and two short story collections that are drawn from the lives of working class men and women who are as tough as the steel toed boots they wear.  There’s no pot of gold at the end for authors of our kind of fiction – it’s too easily dismissed by the corporate gatekeepers – but by God we’ll keep writing it, because it’s who we are.

You can meet Sean and find his books at http://seancarswell.org/.  The review of Dream Chaser he wrote for Flagstaff Live is below.

Words that Work

Shedding one’s flaws to uncover the real in Pat Spears’ Dream Chaser
by Sean Carswell

Almost 25 years ago, I wrote a short story for an undergraduate fiction workshop. It was about working class guys getting drunk and learning hard lessons. There were no women in the story other than barmaids and objects of attraction. One of my classmates, Pat Spears, called me on it. She told me she knew women who could drink my characters under the table and stomp their balls to Jell-O, and those women needed to be in my stories. That phrase stuck with me all these years later. It’s so graphic. Nothing hammers a point home like stomping balls to Jell-O.

I thought Pat Spears was the best writer in that large, prestigious writing program. She wrote about working class characters, too. But where I was just a kid trying to find my voice, Pat was already an established writer. I not only looked up to her, I looked through her stories for things I could steal. In the decades between graduating and now, I kept my eyes open, waiting for a Pat Spears book that never arrived. Until, finally, a couple of months ago, I got the advance review copy of her first novel, Dream Chaser.  

Read the full review here.


Dream Chaser will be available for purchase on August 25.  To buy from the publisher, click here.   It is also available through the distributor, SPD/Small Press Distributors and all regular online retailers.

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  1. Pingback: Sandra Gail Lambert » The Inestimable Talent of Pat Spears

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