SKULL FRAGMENTS: Noir Stories
by Tim L. Williams
$4.99 ebook; $14.95 trade paperback
Two smalltime drug dealers having breakfast in a diner consider killing the cop who stops in for a cup of coffee and kidnapping their waitress. When an old geezer asks an unemployed car salesman to murder his son-in-law to be, the salesman isn’t sure if he’s up for such a radical career change. A young man has to come to terms with the fact that his father is a serial sexual predator. In these and ten other noir tales set mostly in the sun-dappled hills and valleys of Western Kentucky, Tim L. Williams plumbs the swamps that lurk inside the heads and hearts and souls of people just trying to get by. Whether in the quiet towns or along the lonely back roads or on the interstates, the protagonists of Williams’ stories discover getting by is no easy task in a world where your most dangerous enemy is often yourself. With crystal clear sentences, Williams paints the dark side with chilling sympathy. You won’t soon forget these stories.
Tim L. Williams' tale "The Last Dancing Bear in West Kentucky" won Best Short Story at the 2015 International Thriller Writers Awards. It's one of thirteen stories in Tim's baroque crime noir story collection Skull Fragments . The story originally appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
Skull Fragments receives a rave review from international noir blogger Paul D. Brazil:
"New Pulp Press is one of the best publishers of transgressive fiction around and they really have excelled themselves with Skull Fragments: Noir Stories by Tim L. Williams.
At times reminiscent of Donald Ray Pollock’s Knockemstiff or Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, the 14 stories in Skull Fragments have an extra noir edge to them, a way of digging into the hearts and minds of their lost and lonely characters . . .
Every story is a sharp gem but personal favourites include, the opening WHERE THAT MORNING SUN GOES DOWN; WHERE WILL YOU BE WHEN THE WATERS RISE?; THE LAST WRESTLING BEAR IN KENTUCKY; WHERE YOU FIND YOURSELF and the neo-Gothic closer, TICK.
Chilling, touching, sad, brutal, brilliant and beautifully written. Highly recommended."—Paul D. Brazill, Brit Grit & International Noir
To read an interview with Tim L. Williams on Paul D. Brazill’s Brit Grit & International Noir: Click Here
Advance Praise for Tim L. Williams’ Skull Fragments:
“Tim L. Williams probes the darkness in human experience in penetrating detail, with an eye focused especially on those who are marginalized, lost, or desperate. His keen insights lay bare not only the inner drives that lead to violence but the small bright spaces that can be found in almost any life, in which there are glimmers of hope. He’s a writer who never disappoints.”
—Janet Hutchings, Editor-in-Chief, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
“The ability to combine grit and darkness with a sensitive literary quality is no small thing, and Tim L. Williams can be mentioned in the same sentence as James Carlos Blake and Daniel Woodrell. It’s about time that a book of his stories has been published.”
—Otto Penzler, editor, Best American Mystery Stories of the Year
“In Tim Williams’ splendidly written and noir-ish short stories, evil and love become indistinguishable and somehow fuse. When this happens to his characters, they’re dealt a world that cuts to the bone. Everything a reader might ask is given generously in these tales of moments when the heart snaps. These are gruesomely wondrous love stories.”
—Dale Ray Phillips, Pulitzer Prize nominated author of My People’s Waltz
“The stories in Skull Fragments are violent, gritty and highly readable, creating snapshots of people on the other end of the social spectrum, those who get by the only way they know how, sometimes by killing, other times by stealing or maybe worse, but all are surviving…This is the underbelly of American fiction.”
—Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook
“The stories of Tim L. Williams in Skull Fragments resonated within deep, weird chambers of my being that I didn't know existed and that I sometimes wished he'd left me ignorant of. Careful, some thoughts can't be unthunk.”
—Jedidiah Ayres, author of Peckerwood and Fierce Bitches
"Sometimes fiction hurts so good, like the stories in Skull Fragments, in which Tim L. Williams writes with brass-knuckled impact and hopped-up energy and smoke-throated poetry. You wouldn't want any of his troubled characters for neighbors, let alone friends, but they sure are a fun bunch to follow on the page."
—Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands, Red Moon and The Wilding
"One sentence . . . says it all. 'I wasn't engineered in a mad scientist's lab,' the murderer declares, 'or promised to the Dark Lord Satan.' Here's the author's style: deceptively foursquare with a poetic power for all that. And here's his fascination with the dark side, which lives in Kentucky, soaks up beer and bourbon, has greasy hair and body odor. And things to do. That seems to be the wry point of most of these 14 stories. These guys have everyday lives, with errands to run, bills to pay, children to raise, even with that teenage girl chained in the basement . . ."—Booklist
"Set largely in and around the fictional burg of Greenview in Harps County, Ky., on the banks of the real Green River, the stories follow a cavalcade of losers haunted by oxy, meth, and broken dreams. The mines have closed, and the world is populated by traveling salesmen, grifters, hookers, and their prey...For those who can't get enough noir where nobody wins, [Skull Fragments] is perfect."