Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016

Fiction - Short Story/Novela
410 Pages
Reviewed on 06/13/2017
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite

“Everybody has a story” is a well-worn phrase. But how many of us, as we go about our busy lives, ever stop to think about the home life of that disabled boy carrying out groceries or rounding up the emptied shopping carts around the parking lot? Or what would we find if we could read the mind and heart of that circus side-show attraction, the tiny female dwarf in the cute polka-dot dress? Or how does the trucker, who kindly stops to help a near lifeless girl on the highway, feel when his good Samaritan gesture turns his life upside-down? These are just a handful of many everyday people whose stories would never be told if it wasn’t for writers like William H. Coles.

The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is a magnificent collection of 31 short stories of varying lengths, two graphic novels, and one of his most popular novellas, Sister Carrie. And as we move from one story to another, the lives, hearts and souls of ordinary people like us are told in Coles’ straightforward, uncluttered style, where what people say and do to each other is more gripping and unforgettable than the most intricate plots ever written. What’s it like to be raised Amish and then dare to fall in love with someone outside the community? What’s it like to have to deliver a eulogy for those you can barely tolerate when their families are grieving the loss of their loved one? And who will give a stillborn child, seen as and thought of as a “thing,” some kind of burial? Stories such as these will keep us glued to The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016.

“Award-winning short stories of characters facing moral decisions that stretch their lives to mirror who they are and what they might become” is how this book has been described on Coles' website, “Story in Literary Fiction.” That sums The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 perfectly. As a reader, Coles’ collection has reminded me of why and how literary fiction differs from popular fiction. It’s a reminder of why, as students in the sixties, we studied writers like Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert and Emily Bronte: plot mattered but character mattered more. But on a personal note, as a writer, for me The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 has opened a whole new world of possibilities. I can no longer look at the drunk passed out in a doorway downtown, or listen to the irritated voice of a customer service advisor, or watch a now disfigured young woman with the voice of an angel on America’s Got Talent who was one of only two who survived a horrific plane crash without wanting to know their story. Better yet, I am inspired to write such stories one day, and can only hope to do so as beautifully as William H. Coles has written these. I have read many books on how to write, but I’ve learned much more about writing by reading The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016. Thank you, William H. Coles, for your inspiring and motivating stories that have touched this writer/reviewer so deeply.

Gisela Dixon

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a collection of short stories about people from all walks of life and ages. This book is extremely well written and, along with short stories that comprise a big chunk of it, it also includes a novella about two people from different backgrounds and ethnicities and their mutual relationships, along with a couple of graphic novels. The short stories come with illustrations and each one stands independently of the others and can be read in any order.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles is an excellent work of fiction. The writing style and craftsmanship are superb and the illustrations complement the stories beautifully. In fact, there were times when I didn’t particularly like a short story, but loved the illustration since it captured the essence of the story so well. The stories are written about people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and depict human emotions, fears, and joys quite accurately most of the time. I also liked the fact that the stories are not just set in contemporary times, but are also set in past decades and centuries. For example, while reading “Lost Papers,” I felt I was temporarily transported to that time period where fear and uncertainty were dominant, and the credit for this certainly goes to William for his vivid depictions of that era. For anyone who likes short stories, this is a great and well-crafted collection.

Ruffina Oserio

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles features 33 short stories that read like delicious desserts. A seventeen-year-old girl gets pregnant, the mother is disappointed and sends her to deliver her baby in a French convent with the hope of giving the baby away for adoption. The crippled child becomes the greatest gift of the girl’s life. Read about how the ills that touch the lives of others can provoke life-changing choices in us. Encounter the surgeon caught up in a moral dilemma to save or not to save his son after a failed attempt at murder which leaves him brain-dead. And there are a lot, lot, lot more surprises that readers will find in this selection of stories with a variety of themes and a wonderful assortment of characters.

When I started reading the Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016, it was with the intention of reading one story at a time, but it was irresistible, and I found myself going from story to story. William H. Coles seems to be a master of the art of the short story. Each story is composed to read like a miniskirt; short enough to provoke the reader’s curiosity and long enough to keep the essential hidden until the last moment. The stories are exciting, containing wonderful plot lines, complicated issues to deal with, and amazing characters. The author combines humor and wit with the art of the short story to bring a world of entertainment to readers. This is one of my best collections of short stories, after Langston Hughes.

Christian Sia

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is an exceptional compendium of 33 short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella, a collection that offers a wonderful literary treat, beautifully told and brimming with exquisite beauty. “The Gift” introduces the collection, and it features a family conflict developed around an unwanted pregnancy. When seventeen-year-old Catherine gets pregnant, her mother, Agnes, has a clear plan for her. “Agnes kept her plan simple. After the birth, far away, an immediate adoption was the only solution, and after the town no longer remembered or cared, Catherine could return to live out her penance.” But Catherine has her own plans as well. And the child, born without feet, will transform her life in ways no one could have imagined.

This is just a taste of what awaits the reader in this collection, for there is a variety of stories, each with a unique plot, a unique conflict driving it, and quite often readers are confronted with suspenseful situations. The stories are well-developed and crafted to keep the reader turning the pages. Some read like little gems, others like a refreshing drink. It is difficult not to notice the entertaining character of the stories, with well-developed characters that fit neatly into exciting settings. Readers will enjoy William H. Coles’ gift for style, his excellent prose, and his uncanny ability to lead readers into the inner workings of his characters’ minds. The stories have both psychological and emotional depth, are conflict driven, and masterfully plotted. Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is both exciting and compelling in its originality and the illustrations add color to the overall reading experience.

Rabia Tanveer

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a collection of short stories, graphic novels and a novella that all grapple with the idea of humanity, human errors, and how every human perceives a situation differently. Sometimes the stories are about counting your blessings and being happy with them, and sometimes the stories are about the trials and tests that humans have to go through. These stories are wholesome, entertaining and complete, giving you a fulfilling feeling. This book has a total of 33 short stories and all of them have their own characters, with their own flaws and their own wars to win.

I absolutely loved “The Necklace,” the story of a couple trying to find the rhythm of their relationship while they travel to India. They know how much they love each other, but they are uncertain about their future. However, tragedy befalls another couple; they realize how deep their feelings are for each other. I also loved the novella in which a pretty teenager falls in love with an Iranian boy, who may or may not be part of a terrorist attack. "The Dilemma” was pretty intense and emotional and I felt deeply for the characters.

All of these stories will give you a sense of satisfaction and that is thanks to the way they are written. Author William H. Coles did a wonderful job of creating realistic characters who could be anyone we see around us every day. I don’t think I can describe the way he writes; it is flawless, smooth, and very striking. These stories will speak to you on a personal level. The illustrations were simply awesome as well. All in all, this is a wonderful collection of stories that are perfect for people who simply love to read.

K.C. Finn

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000 - 2016 is a collection of award-winning and highly engaging fictional works by author William H Coles. Spanning over four hundred pages, this lengthy collection collates 33 short stories, two graphic novel adaptations, and a novella, along with numerous illustrations by a variety of artistic and graphic designers. The stories span a wide variety of genres, from thrillers and adventure tales to harrowing personal drama and the speculative, with plenty of character-driven action and unusual happenings to keep readers turning the pages. Whatever the case, lessons about human nature and human behavior are always at the epicenter of each compelling tale.

Readers seeking a varied and engaging collection to dip in and out of need look no further than the work of William H. Coles. Coles runs the full gamut of human emotions throughout the pages of these collected works, writing with expressive prose and close narration that keeps us near to the authentic presentation of each of his characters. I particularly enjoyed the sensitivity and inclusiveness that the author gives to issues such as disability, human rights, prejudice, immigration, and psychological disorders, proving that all different types of people have stories to tell and demons to face. From historical tales to modern-day racial tensions, the short stories read almost like modern fairy tales, delivering morality messages through the struggles which the characters endure. Overall, Illustrated Short Fiction of William H Coles: 2000 - 2016 is a well-organized selection of literary treats for multi-genre readers to discover and enjoy.

Ankita Shukla

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a collection of about 35 diverse short stories. One thing that all these stories share in common is their depth. These stories trigger emotions in you and force you to think out of the box. The plots are extremely diverse in nature. While Suchin's Escape focuses on Suchin trying to get out of forced prostitution, The Indelible Myth is a story about a boy who just can't escape his one mistake and has to live with it. The diversity of the plots is mind-blowing, to say the least.

The characters are well written and easy to connect with. The author's specialty is keeping his characters as close to reality as possible. These characters are complex, much like everybody around us. For instance, in the story The Gift, readers see the angry and unsympathetic side of Agnes when she discovers that her unmarried teenage daughter, Catherine, is pregnant. However, when Agnes's husband talks about her other side, which is caring and loving, it brings home the point that no person is pure evil. This depth of characters is sheer genius and compelling.

Most of the short stories are quite long, although a few climax in less than 2-3 pages. The short story Necklace is truly close to my heart. It's about cherishing your partner and taking a leap of faith; however, instead of getting to the point head-on, the author used other characters to draw the conclusion. Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is perfect for readers who enjoy one book with a lot of intriguing short stories.

Vernita Naylor

If you are looking for and interested in a series of short stories, novels and a novella (longer than a short story yet shorter than a novel) then look no further. By picking up a copy of Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles, you will enjoy over 40 written works covering themes from unconditional love to struggles and choices.

In this collection, William H. Coles has carefully chosen a collection of pieces that gives the reader something to chew on, ponder and digest pertaining to how we as people interact, connect and sometimes judge each other. William H. Coles displays in this book how we believe that we're the judge and jury in not only our lives but in our interpersonal relationships. An example of some great stories that you will discover along with the journey, passion, and challenges of life are The Gift, Suchin’s Escape, and Dilemma.

As I began to read stories like The Gift, Suchin’s Escape, and Dilemma, I was immediately pulled in and longed for more. William H. Coles holds nothing back in any of the stories contained in this book. In actuality, you may see your life or those closest to you in a number of these stories. Or maybe a story that can easily fit into your favorite TV show, documentary or movie. It is highly suggested that you pick up a copy of this book and tell your family and friends.

Ray Simmons

I’m not a big reader of short stories. I prefer novels most of the time, but some short stories have impressed me over the years, and I have a sneaking suspicion that I should read more short stories in order to improve my own writing. I reviewed a book by William H. Coles recently called Creating Literary Stories, and I was impressed by the ideas and techniques he described. I wanted to see the results of his theories, and what kind of writing they produced, so when I got this chance to read Illustrated Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016, I jumped at it. I am suitably impressed. Mr. Coles' writing is intensely powerful and delivers a maximum punch in a relatively small time. I can see a mastery of techniques that he talked about in Creating Literary Stories, and I have learned so much from reading and studying these two books. These stories are great. You don’t have to be a writer to enjoy them. I think every reader will love and appreciate them.

Most of the stories in Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 present the reader with ethical moral dilemmas that cannot easily be solved. These are questions and situations that real people face in life. Thank heavens most of us don’t, but some people do. The characters are real, the conflicts vividly intense and the resolutions, while not always as satisfying as we would hope for in a perfect world, are good enough for this one. “The Gift” was my personal favorite. I have been a sucker for short stories with this title since discovering O. Henry in high school. I fell in love with O. Henry’s writing then and I love William H. Coles' writing now.

Asher Syed

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a compilation of the titular author's work, with nearly three dozen short stories and a novella. Interspersed are illustrations, primarily cover-style artwork for the stories themselves. The short stories vary in length, but each brings a wholly unique plot and cast of characters that are surprisingly well layered for such a compact format. Coles crisscrosses the globe with multiple locations, delivering a host of very human, very humanizing dilemmas with moral implications that require a degree of navigation on the part of the protagonists that are, ultimately, universal.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles was exactly what I hoped it would be when I came across it. This is the type of book one would keep on a nightstand or a coffee table. It's what you might pick up for a quick nibble of bite-sized fiction and find yourself unable to put down. Coles is witty in his writing and the narrative is as engrossing as it is fun. My favorite was the story Father Ryan, a priest on a flight (and a fair bit of complications on the ground), who is upgraded to first class. It's a simple line but it made me really chuckle: “Father Ryan accepted the relocation without protest to a higher authority—divine or administrative.” It is the genuine human nature of the characters that make Coles' work stand out; a big literary punch in a small ring (and a weight class of its own). Highly and enthusiastically recommended.