Battleborn

Battleborn - Claire Vaye Watkins This author shows some definite promise, provided she can manage to sort out her verb-tense schizophrenia. She doesn't shy away from dicey material. In the first few stories, she revels in the strange and the forbidden, with stories about abortion, incest, a gay male madam at a Nevada brothel, and kids who ran with Charlie Manson. The last few stories are a bit more commonplace, but still edgy, because edginess is the petri dish from which her stories evolve. Most of these stories are set in Watkins's home state of Nevada. I spent my formative years on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California side, but very close to the border with Nevada. I have some familiarity with the geography and "vibe" of Nevada, which Watkins captures perfectly. Her stories grow from that boredom and restlessness and just general weirdness of life in a barren landscape, where there's so little to do but stir up mischief and go a little crazy. Two complaints. First, wandering verb tense makes me tense. Second, I felt cheated by the way some of the stories ended. Short stories are often like outtakes from a full-length film. It takes some real skill to leave the reader satisfied while ending a story in media res. Watkins has yet to master that skill, but she certainly has the potential to do so.