Lately, I’ve been trying to expand my reading horizons. Much of what I’ve written lately has been short fiction. However, I tend to read more book-length works. When I thought about it, I realized that other than anything put out by Stephen King, I hadn’t read many short stories since my college lit class days.
This week, my read was Gregory Miller. I hadn’t heard of him before, but I was exploring Twitter and checking out various writer profiles. His mentioned his two collections of short stories, “Scaring the Crows: 21 Tales for Noon or Midnight” and “The Uncanny Valley: Tales from a Lost Town.” They sounded intriguing, so I checked them out on Amazon.
What reeled me in was that Gregory is from Pennsylvania and many of the stories in “Crows” are set in or near Pittsburgh. Yes, I chose something to read partly based on my Steelers fandom. I’m weird that way.
Regardless of how I stumbled into Miller’s stories, I landed in a good place. “Scaring the Crows” is a delightful collection. The stories are short, and you can easily devour several in one sitting. But they are chock full of heart and description, and you’re left amazed that you could grow so attached to the quirky and often quite likeable characters in such bite-sized works.
The collection doesn’t stick to one genre. There’s horror and sentimental slices of life. Miller captures the essence of childhood and the melancholy of old age perfectly, even though he himself has left one behind and has years to go before experiencing the other. The settings range from rural farm towns to the city of Pittsburgh to the inner bowels of an insane asylum.
The book is illustrated by John Randall York. The illustrations at the beginning of each new tale capture the heart of the story ahead in sometimes spooky and sometimes heartrending images.
“Scaring the Crows” is perfect reading when you don’t have much time but need an escape into a tale that makes you smile or get a little shiver, think, and maybe even get a bit sentimental. My personal favorites were “Arachno,” because it skeeved me the heck out, and “Come Spring” and “Welcome Home” because they made my heart hurt a little in that very good way.
As a short story writer myself, I thank Miller for a lesson in telling a big tale in a small package. As a reader, I thank him for a very entertaining afternoon.
I’ll be reading “The Uncanny Valley” soon, but I’m saving it for just a bit. When I already know I’m in for a treat, I like to enjoy the anticipation.