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Volt: Stories

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,270 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
A blistering collection of stories from an exhilarating new voice

One man kills another after neither will move his pickup truck from the road. A female sheriff in a flooded town attempts to cover up a murder. When a farmer harvesting a field accidentally runs over his son, his grief sets him off walking, mile after mile. A band of teens bent on destruction runs amok in a d
ebook, 208 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Graywolf Press (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jan 22, 2013 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hey-shorty, grit-lit

what i am finding i like the most about these tales of the downtrodden in appalachia are their range of expression. this one falls in between the explosive, gratuitous (in a great way) violence of Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories and the almost severe restraint and quietude of In the Devil's Territory. they are stories of strict realism, told dispassionately, but not without emotional appeal, if that makes sense.

and before anyone squawks, for me, "appalachia" is a state of mind and a mode of
Check out my interview with Alan Heathcock @

If you have liked the Authors, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Steinbeck, Cormac McCarthy and William Gay you will like this.
These snippets of stories feel like ballads of loss, love, redemption and reconciliation, they ooze originality and great craftsmanship. He takes you to dream like sense of feelings at times in these stories of magical realism. Literature with dark themes,
Richard Derus
Jan 08, 2013 Richard Derus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review can now be found at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Alan Heathcock's stories reminded me heavily of Donald Day Pollock's Knockemstiff - both are set in a small, rural town somewhere in the American Midwest, and feature characters who are struggling with their lives - and themselves. Their existence and the world around them seems empty, desolate - plains and prairies stretching endlessly, days little different from one another, little hope or something new and better. Heathcock's Krafton is such a town It is a town closely tied with the cycle of ...more
Jan 04, 2012 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I tried to write a normal Volt review and failed. I’m going with bullet points.

Volt is really fucking good. Sorry. I know doesn’t give you much information. Let us move on.

• I try not to read reviews until I’m finished with a book, but I’m guessing (the unfortunately named) Heathcock (heh) gets compared to Woodrell, Faulkner, etc. Volt invites comparison and Heathcock’s (stop it) influences aren’t hard to track. That’s not a criticism. Volt isn’t a weak imitation of its predecessors. The
Apr 26, 2011 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: short review
I was just saying (on another review) how I don't abandon books, but 'Volt' came along, and that called to me and told me to stop everything and read it: two stories in, it's brilliant. Terrifying and riveting and bone melting.

Yes the whole book was terrifying and riveting and bone melting. Heathcock is in the tradition of McCarthy and Carver and Steinbeck in the unflinching approach to his characters, here people of an imaginary town called Krafton (I hope it's imaginary cuz there's far
Nov 21, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I've bruised and battered this book, taken it with me here and there, unable to shelf it, even after reading it. Largely because although I read the thing, a greedy read does not do the work justice.

Of all the short stories I've read lately - Woodrell, Pollock, Flannery O'Connor, this collection has the most heart.

The first two short stories are spellbinding. Cinematic. Slight gear change with the stories that followed but still in the territory of excellence. A new favourite.

Release date: 3/11

So in my mad rush to cram another book into 2010 - I cracked this collection of short stories open and found myself unable to lift my eyes from it's pages. Not because I wanted to finish it before the ball dropped, but because it completely sucked me in and refused to spit me back out!

2010 seemed to be bursting at the "short story" seams. I read more short stories this year than any other years combined and it looks as though 2011 is headed in the same direction. What I love ab
Dec 01, 2013 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These stories are awful. Just awful. In being awful, they are great. If you too are someone who can still enjoy the story despite it being about less than uplifting characters, circumstance, and developments then you will love this collection. I would almost guarantee that this one will hit the mark.

Others have compared his writings to Cormac McCarthy, William Gay, Daniel Woodrell and the like. I get that, but I think he has a certainly unique voice; I hope for much more work from him in the fut
Richard Thomas
May 05, 2011 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(This review was originally published at The Nervous Breakdown.)

Small town living is always the same, whether it’s in Arkansas, Idaho, or Missouri. Built on the backs of linked story collections like Winesboro, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson and Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock, Volt (Graywolf Press) by Alan Heathcock follows the lives of a handful of lost souls, tragedy washing over them like a great flood, people with names like Winslow, and Jorgen, and Vernon. In the fictional town of Krafton, w
Blurbs aren't usually worth the paper they're written on, but Stewart O'Nan's take on Alan Heathcock's short story collection, VOLT, about nails it: "In the tradition of Breece D'J Pancake and Kent Meyers, Alan Heathcock turns his small town into a big canvas. Like the tales in WINESBURG, OHIO, the stories in VOLT are full of violence and regret, and the sad desperation of the grotesque."

While we are about the business of allusions, I would add Henry David Thoreau's famous line, "The mass of men
Kirk Smith
Aug 17, 2014 Kirk Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another top shelf collection of short stories to recommend. Writing style is bold,and full of heart. Imaginative use of reverse/random chronological order in PEACEKEEPER may have been a way to depict the fatigued and scattered thoughts of the female law officer. Very effective, at least for me. Very little blood or gore, I really appreciated being more focused on motivations and emotions. The outstanding one for me was LAZURUS with a very quotable spiritual line that concluded the story. Sorry ...more
This is one of those books that, based on glowing reviews, I bought a few years ago, then put on the shelf, just waiting for the right time to read. I planned to luxuriate in this book; to savor each and every story. So, finally, the moment had come. And then . . .

Sad sound of head hitting the desk.

I could try to pin this on the author by saying HE failed to make me care about any of the characters or their exploits, but I suspect this is not his fault. Plenty of other people closed this collec
Larry Olson
Apr 02, 2011 Larry Olson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Machart (Wake of Forgiveness) recommended Volt by Alan Heathcock that clinched a three-run homer for me. Pretty rare that you read three novels in a row that you are absolutely crazy about but starting with Machart, then Percy’s Wilding set the bar pretty high. Heathcock did not disappoint. I am a big fan of southern gothic literature where a strong focus on the significance of family and community in one’s personal and social life is a central theme and what draws me to the type of writin ...more
Jul 06, 2012 Sonya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
We read one story from this collection in my short story class and if there ever were a case for being so wowed by a story that it would almost make you afraid to write because how could you ever write something that good yourself, PEACEKEEPER would be that story.


The collection as a whole is strong and violently observant.
Lavinia Ludlow
Feb 05, 2012 Lavinia Ludlow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heathcock's debut collection of stories, Volt, comes highly concentrated and packs a tight punch. In mere paragraphs, he can describe a scene, a situation, and introduce multiple characters, and he does it naturally and unforced. He has a rustic writing style, reminding me of Mark Twain and Jon Steinbeck, leading me to believe this book was not written in today's fast-paced, technology and information overloaded society, but one of a quieter nature somewhere in the wooded towns and farm-ridden s ...more
Jenny Shank
Jun 11, 2011 Jenny Shank rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Alan Heathcock’s ‘Volt’ Delivers Cinematic Stories of Small Town Noir
Boise writer Alan Heathcock makes a strong debut with Volt.

By Jenny Shank, 3-07-11

by Alan Heathcock
Graywolf Press, 207 pages, $15

Boise writer Alan Heathcock‘s gripping debut short story collection Volt is an intricately crafted examination of a fictional small town called Krafton that could be located anywhere in rural America. If you happened to pass through Krafton, you’d be advised
I came across quite a bit of hype for this collection of stories over at TMN in anticipation of the upcoming ToB so I conjured up a copy through my local inter-library loan process. Among the praises being sung for these stories were comparisons to Carver (yes, these were about the down-trodden, people with less than they deserve (?) or those living a tough live of their own making), McCarthy (well, Heathcock is from Idaho and one assumes his locale of 'Krafton' is 'out west', so there's that, a ...more
Siobhan Fallon
Mar 21, 2011 Siobhan Fallon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Magnificent. The kind of fiction that will keep you up at night, from either staying up too late reading, or tossing and turning with the lights out, trying to digest the stories. These are not tales for the faint hearted or beach readers, but darkly moving tales with electric dialogue and plots twists that jerk like fish on a hook. This is real literature, folks. And Heathcock knows how to make it incredibly exciting to read, from a small town sheriff tracking down a child's killer to a deadly ...more
May 20, 2016 Aramys rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Madre mía, es que no tengo palabras.
Brandon Tietz
Some say that you know you're reading perfect writing when you don't even realize you're reading anymore. The page numbers pass uncounted. You, the reader, devour each word with greed, like a drug. And before you know it, the story is over and you are changed somehow, both resolved and left thinking at the same time.

This phenomena happens in Alan Heathcock's collection, "Volt," and it happens right away with his first story, "The Staying Freight," a piece about a man who kills his own son and en
Mar 13, 2011 Bernice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has been so well reviewed that I'm a little intimidated to add my two cents. I lack eloquence in this area. I will say that reading the opening story "Staying Freight," made me want to just sit and be grateful for family in the same the way that watching a good friend or family member fight and struggle against some terrible circumstance that leaves us all helpless makes me need to sit back and be grateful. These stories reflect back to the reader what it means to be human especially w ...more
May 13, 2011 Tuck rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i read a lot of short stories, most recently:
Raymond CarverRaymond Carver: Collected Stories

Sherman Alexie War Dances

Lydia Peelle
Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories
Wells Tower Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Amy Bloom Where the God of Love Hangs Out
Sam Shephard Day Out of Days: Stories
Thomas Lynch Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories
Ron Rash Burning Bright: Stories
Eddie Chuculate Cheyenne Madonna
nonrequired reading The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010
No Name
“All that innocent until guilty bullshit. ‘Cause out here, some are guilty the moment you lay eyes on ‘em, and what the law ought to do is stop ‘em ‘fore they can do what they’re born to do”

Whoa. Volt took me by utter surprise and really did a number on me. I was not prepared for the emotional journey I was about to embark upon. I first learned about this collection of short stories in the article “It’s More Than Just Meth Labs and Single Wides: A Rural Noir Primer” (
Luke Felt
Dec 20, 2010 Luke Felt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read the entire collection, but if the four stories that I have read are any indication, VOLT by Alan Heathcock is a collection to be reckoned with.

Here is my dramatic blurb:

The characters in Heathcock's stories are wild and desperate and full of hope (or some approximation of it). They are grief stricken and joyous and courageous and alone. They are, before all else, absolutely human. Reading these stories is like waking up, like remembering what it is to be alive. Read this book.
Eight stories based in a fictional small town called Krafton. Helen Farraley, elected sheriff as a joke, is featured in two of the eight -- Peacekeeper and Volt. Jorgen Delmore, Iraq vet, plays a role in two - Furlough and Volt. Vernon, as a 15-yr old boy and as a 50+ pastor, takes the lead in two -- Smoke and Lazurus. Pastor Hamby, never the lead, makes an appearance in The Staying Freight, Peacekeeper, and The Daughter (Vernon just might be Pastor Hamby). Roy Rodgers shows up in Smoke and Fort ...more
Amanda Patchin
Mar 18, 2015 Amanda Patchin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it's because I just finished McCarthy's No Country for Old Men but Alan Heathcock's Volt reminds me of McCarthy's grimly violent work, though Heathcock's prose is richer - less stark. This collection of short stories also echoes Flannery O'Connor as characters struggle against the macabre ill-luck of a small town, each seeking a shred of peace. Dark but satisfying, I couldn't put this volume down and stayed up rather late last night to finish it in one day.
Laura Leaney
Nov 11, 2014 Laura Leaney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a book so good in a long time. The kind that makes you re-read a page for the sheer pleasure of it. The kind with writing that punches you in the chest. Stories full of love and darkness. At one point I had to put a bookmark between two pages mid-story in order to get to work, but I put it in my bag so I could sit in the lot and finish it. I felt trembly when I reached the final page.
Alyson Hagy
Jul 07, 2011 Alyson Hagy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a knockout debut. Stark, dramatic stories that delve deeply into character and setting and the dream-delving powers of language. "Volt," "Peacekeeper," and "Smoke" are among my favorites. This collection is a must-read for readers and writers who crave stories where human actions have sweet and painful consequences.
Sanjay Varma
Excellent short stories set in backwoods small town America. In terms of style they remind me of Ron Rash, Ron Carlson, and to some degree evoke the desperate quality present in Cormac McCarthy.

The most important themes are family and community. How can such damaged loners live with each other and, on occasion, help and console each other? The offered help is small in scale, like a lamp that is opened a mere fraction of an inch, yet it is an act of bravery and a risk to oneself that casts a warm
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  • Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories
  • This Is Not Your City
  • Poachers
  • The Great Frustration
  • In the Devil's Territory
  • American Salvage
  • What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • Burning Bright
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • Orientation: And Other Stories
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
  • The Collected Stories
  • Girl Trouble: Stories
  • You Think That's Bad
  • I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Love and Other Wounds: Stories
  • Gryphon: New and Selected Stories
Alan Heathcock’s VOLT was a “Best Book” selection from numerous newspapers and magazines, including GQ, Publishers Weekly, Salon, the Chicago Tribune, and Cleveland Plain Dealer, was named as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, selected as a Barnes and Noble Best Book of the Month, as well as a finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize. Heathcock has won a Whiting Award, the GLCA New Writers ...more
More about Alan Heathcock...

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“No matter what you say, or how much you talk, someone isn’t really forgiven until you can stand beside them without wanting to slap them in the face.” 37 likes
“I wish I could take my brain and put it inside your head,” Winslow said. “Just for a moment. Then you’d know what all I can’t find how to say.” 16 likes
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