A high altitude lake is the point of departure for these stories of dark adventure, in which fishing guides, amateur sportsmen, teenage misfits, scientists, mountaineers, and expatriates embark on disquieting journeys of self-discovery in far-flung places.
Tim Weed's first novel, Will Poole's Island, was named one of Bank Street College of Education’s Best Books of the Year. His short fiction collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, made the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Shortlist and was a finalist in the short story category for both the 2018 American Fiction Awards and the 2017 International Book Awards. Tim is the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award and his work has appeared in Literary Hub, The Millions, Colorado Review, Talking Points Memo, Writer's Chronicle, Fiction Writers Review and elsewhere.
A member of the Vermont Humanities Council Speakers’ Bureau and the co-founder of the Cuba Writers Program, Tim serves on the core faculty of the Newport MFA in Creative Writing and has been a featured lecturer for National Geographic Expeditions in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, and Tierra del Fuego. He’s an avid outdoorsman and currently makes his home in rural Vermont.
In his first short story collection, novelist Tim Weed shows his stunningly impressive range—transporting readers from the heights of the Andes and the depths of the Amazon to the backstreets of Rome and Granada. His eye for detail and precise gift for language reveal a writer with a panorama of expertise: a man who knows birds and fish, camping and skiing, blue collar New England and hippie Colorado and the seedy underbelly of Cuba. He can sum up an entire world in the turn of a perfect phrase: “Santiago was a hilly city, like a disintegrating San Francisco”; “The air cooled noticeably, and fast-moving tongues of fog swept over the hillsides as if preparing to devour them”; “the suburban development…was then pressing southward over the prairie like the invasion of a fast-growing geometrical fungus.” One of my favorite all-time sentences appears in his story of utility linemen laboring on the outskirts of Denver: “His eyes—usually vague and bewildered, as if he’d gone to sleep beside a campfire and woken up beside a six lane highway—had become small and mean, like one of those black-and-white archive photographs of Appalachian dirt farmers.” Many of Weed’s stories have a hint of the mysterious, even the supernatural, but they are all grounded in sharply-rendered material worlds so fresh one feels one might step directly into the literary photographs he has created and stroll around for a while. A top-notch debut, not to be missed.
In A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing, Tim Weed demonstrates in thirteen immersive selections an uncanny insight into human foibles and, in some cases, with no expiation. Rarely do I read depth of characters that are believable and also surprise me. Weed has written a series of vivid, highly varied, and completely convincing pieces, which are masterfully crafted and drew me into the story quickly, keeping me invested to the end. The Foreigner is the most emotionally affecting story for me, arising from a subtlety of writing, like an impressionist painting I was softly and romantically drawn into a world that soon becomes ‘vanilla sky’ in questioning what is reality. The story describes a photographers experience in Spain and how he comes to terms with his solitude and the missed opportunities of physical and emotional passions he has separated from through his work. The collection leads off with two stories of a boy’s initiation into the next stage of life, one through acts of cruelty and violence and the other through drug-induced states, The Camp of Cutthroat Lake and Tower Eight. These two stories set the tone for sustained tension, unexpected plot turns and reverberant finishes that generate an unsettledness, along with questions and thoughts that stuck with me long after I read them. By the time I encountered the quiet insidious darkness of The Afternoon Client, where pride takes precedence over life and then the Mouth of the Tropics, where I was transported into the Amazon and into a man’s obsession with his search for recognition, identity, and resolution of his life’s work, I understood I was reading stories that took me out of my comfort zone and deep into the intricacies of the human heart and at times with no redemption at the end. Even in these brief stories, Weed drew me in masterly with the living, exotic worlds he created from Nantucket to Rome and the interior worlds of human experience from loneliness to love. He reveals character subtly and lyrically, as each story explores the careless events and impulses that influence the stark choices characters make. I have not been so impressed by a collection of short stories in quite a long time. These are all well worth the read.
Tim Weed’s wonderfully titled A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing is a fiction collection of the first order. Think Hemingway or Harrison. I found myself parceling out the stories to make them last. This is the good stuff. This is why we write and read.
"A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing" starts with a story called “The Camp at Cutthroat Lake.”
The opening is bucolic:
“Two boys and a man in his late forties sit in an aluminum rowboat in the middle of a lake at the bottom of a broad mountain basin. The lake mirrors the sky of a calm summer afternoon, but tendrils of cold air coming down from the surrounding crags will soon dispel the fragile illusion of warmth.”
If there are two words that sum up this entire collection of sharply-drawn, memorable stories, it might be “fragile illusion.” In Tim Weed’s stories, reality often slips away. Or slips in and out of focus. Or reality, if you’re not paying attention, will reach up and grab you by the throat. The opening beauty of “Cutthroat Lake” quickly becomes a stark lesson in life and death with a “faint, dry pop.”
Self-discovery is one theme in this collection. So is loneliness. And longing—the alluring Cuban women in “The Money Pill,” the elusive Soledad on Granada in “The Foreigner” and the tempting Kate in “A Winter Break in Rome.”
Nature is a major presence and sometimes an active participant, dealing its vicious cards in random fashion. There is always movement and activity, real people putting in real work for outdoorsy pursuits or a paycheck, either way. The stories themselves move quickly, too. There’s an entire trip up river to the dense jungles and back, including a major moral quandary and a strained relationship between two scientists, in the brisk pages of “Mouth of the Tropics.”
Weed takes us to New Hampshire and Nantucket, The Andes and Venezuela, and Rome and Cuba, too. His characters are primarily young men and they are often strangers in a foreign land—even the construction worker Phil in “Scrimshaw” commutes by plane to Nantucket and marvels at the island, “an Aladdin’s lamp crescent of sand and yellow-green heath; a rich man’s playground of weathered cedar cottages and summer mansions.” (Watch for the allusions to magic, like the Aladdin reference; they are plentiful.) When there isn’t regular travel, Weed’s men drop acid, contemplate hallucinations, or ponder their own powerful dreams.
Weed sets vivid scenes with ease. The landscape is never in doubt. It’s very hard to imagine, after reading these thirteen entries, that Weed could write a story set entirely under fluorescent lights in an office building (but I wouldn’t mind seeing him try). But don’t think landscape as scenery, think landscape as character. It is frequently integrated front and center, as it is in “Diamondback Mountain” and in the most heart-pounding story here, “Keepers.”
The writing is muscular and tough, but Weed’s characters are often open to their sensitivities and vulnerabilities. (Not always; see “The Money Pill” or “Scrimshaw.”) But in stories like “The Dragon of Conchagua,” in which a former Peace Corps volunteer named John returns to Ecuador in an attempt to scale a high-altitude volcano, the main character is keenly aware of a key memory from his youth, one that involved his hiking partner Gabe, and puzzles over a fleeting apparition. John comes across a wrecked vintage Cessna, the fuselage half-consumed by pillow moss. “Kneeling to peer into the cockpit, he sensed a fast-moving object overhead and glanced up reflexively, fear gripping his gut like a fist. But apart from blue sky and a few lingering wisps of fog, there was nothing to see. Taking a deep breath, he squinted down into the cockpit. Once again, there was nothing to see.” This moment neatly foreshadows the harrowing finish with both flight and visions playing key roles.
Immersive, visceral, and chock full of sensory detail, “A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing” is a winner from first story to last. Murder? Yes, it’s here. But in the traditional sense it’s in short supply. Fly fishing? Yes, it’s here. But in the traditional sense, it’s in short supply. Like the stories within, the title of this collection is a bit of a fragile illusion.
A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing: Stories by Tim Weed. Green Writers Press. 2017. 978-0-9974528-7-7 ($24.95) Hardcover.
Diving into this collection of short stories by writer and travel expert Tim Weed, you might want to pack your bags and roam the continent in search of great harrowing adventures. And in some ways, this collection delivers on that. But embedded in these narratives, is a deeper longing, a desperate, and sometimes frustrating relationship, between his protagonist’s fraught desires, fears, and dreams. The depth of emotions reveal subtle, dynamic, and often stunning revelations.
In stories like “Tower Eight,” “Mouth of the Tropics,” “Diamondback Mountain,” and “Keepers,” Weed moves the physical world to the forefront where nature, mountains, fish, weather conditions, and the reality of nature itself become antagonistic. These stories echo the Hemingway tradition of fronting raw power and natural uncertainty as a means to test a character's fate. This can end in a lesson learned or life lost. But his complexity is not limited to this “surviving nature” theme.
Tim Weed’s balance of emotional connection and physical space is always true to the lyrical sense of his prose. At times, the physical locations: Cuba, Grenada, Colorado, the slopes of New Hampshire, Spain, Italy, all play roles in the narratives that balance the emotional depth to the physicality of these locations. Each story hinges on a moment where physical space and emotional connection criss-cross. In “Diamondback Mountain,” a field guide who has fallen for a movie actress finds himself caught up in such emotions it feels like it materializes into a great collapse of his life on the side of the mountain.
“At first he is frantic, but he can’t move more than a twitch, and gradually a feeling of serenity washes over him. When he thinks about it, he’s known for a while that this or something like it was coming. In a way, the pressure of the snow is soothing.”
The balance between falling in love with an actress and the collapse of any kind of his dreams come down on him, catching him in a balance between the physical world and the metaphorical realm that Weed strikes. “Six Feet under the Prairie” connects to the physical and emotional conflict of utility linemen working on the open prairie, fraught with two men at odds with one another, while mourning the loss of the open wilderness for that of suburban development. This harsh and sometimes majestic landscape is constantly fluctuating between a lyrical lesson and a very real and hard-won place in the world.
Beyond the natural battles and the lyrical vision of his prose, Weed is at his best when he is pushing the edge of obsessions. His stories connect when we feel the misguided love, the vision of beauty, and the hope that love will follow from one continent to another. In “A Winter Break in Rome,” the narrator (Justin) is obsessed with Kate, another student on winter break in Europe. In the hopes of connecting romantically with her, Justin gets into a fight with local Italian boys and he is beaten for his troubles. In the aftermath, missing a few teeth, there is a deeply moving moment where Justin asks Kate to join him in Greece for the remainder of the trip. Instead of giving him an answer, she says, “Crete should be beautiful this time of year. Also Mykonos. You should definitely go there.” And the dream of being together is dashed in one allusive phrase. His physical beating and now his emotional loss cohabitate across the table. It is desperate, sad, and classically romantic.
A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing is more than a collection of adventure stories. It is a significant and moving collection of ideas, snapshots, and visions that leave a lasting impression. Tim Weed’s masterful approach to the opposing forces of his character (nature and emotions) always reveals well-crafted moving stories. It is clear that his experience as a travel expert, educator, and writer has honed his craft to transcend adventure writing to an emotional experience that is timely and deeply moving. Never predictable, this collection is a must for travelers, adventure seekers, and anyone who cares to examine the depth of his varied and flawed characters. Tim Weed is the author of the historical fiction novel Will Poole's Island (2014) and is available in e-book and print format.
Reading this wonderful book made me wish that I was a student in Tim Weed's classes--I want to absorb some of his mastery of language. Tim is able to easily transport the reader into other places and times, whether it's a granite quarry in New Hampshire or the cobblestones of my favorite city, Rome. His stories are filled with deep human connections, love, friendship and family, that touch both the heart and mind with memory and imagination. He makes the unfamiliar accessible and I could easily envision the scenes in Cuba, Colorado or Spain despite having never been to those locations. Tim masterfully transcends cultures to show the human emotions that live within us all. I highly recommend this stellar collection of stories.
Tim Weed has the strategy I want to learn. He submitted short stories to literary magazine contests and won a few. These stories are now in one bound volume with others he may or may not have submitted, but at this time have not won any prizes. Some of them are troubling. Some are entertaining. Some have flashes of brilliance, such as his character development in one of the winners--the smoothest description I've ever read. As a contest winner, he received their monetary prizes--not much but solid evidence all of his hours of crafting and rewriting were not in vain. Now I want to dig into his first novel.
Each story is visceral, wickedly funny, and emotionally potent. They immerse us in settings as distant as Rome, Granada, and the Amazon, and makes them feel as tangible as our own back yard. The language is beautiful, painting scenes and settings as vividly as watercolors. With each narrative, the tension gradually tightens, a taut string ready to snap.
His characters are relatable, familiar, and human, even when -- hence the title+ -- they are committing acts as violent and questionable as murder. It is an amazing read.
This short story collection will have you completely in its grasp. From beginning to end, each story is a unique and fascinating adventure. I couldn't put this book down. Tim Weed's spare, powerful prose does not leave you, as he drops the reader first on a mountaintop then down a dark river and beyond. Weed spins a subtle weave of darkness throughout these tales with superb skill. It was a thrilling ride.
After receiving a copy through a Goodreads Giveaway, I was pleasantly surprised by this lovely little book of short stories. I took my time and read one story at a time and enjoyed every one of them. I never was a reader of short stories before but this author has changed my mind. I'll be looking forward to reading more of Tim Weed's books in the future.
At first I thought this was a “guy’s book,” with mostly male characters, and stories of adventure. But the writing is so good, complex and descriptive, that I was easily drawn in. Each story presents a harrowing situation and people whose characters are tested and deepened. Tim Weed is especially good at endings with a surprising twist.
While this is not a linked story collection (and I love those), I found myself finishing one story and wanting to start the next one immediately. Partly because of the author's voice that makes you want to follow; partly because of the descriptions that really pop; partly because of the vivid and interesting interfaces between cultures and worlds. The stories evoked widely varying circumstances and occupations; the characters were all relatable. This collection ranks right up there with anything I've read by more famous authors.
Tim Weed has done it again. The shorts are masterful and show his skill with page turning powerful prose. Everything from hardened family, backwards friendships, and realistic human interactions. It was a perfect beach read and is a modern take on teachable short stories. Highly recommend for everyone to read!
If you want an be whisked away to the narrow streets of Italy or even the mouth of the Amazon river, choose Tim Weed as your guide through his short story collection A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing. Weed takes you on an intercontinental adventure that not only brings a destination to life but also shows the intimacies of being a traveler looking in on a culture. Whether it’s through the eyes of teenager tripping on LSD in New Hampshire or a photographer traipsing through the back alleys of Spain, each character invites the reader into a unique setting with details so delicious, you will eat up the whole thing. Weed creates a unique sense of place with his vibrant imagery. For example, one unlucky college student in Rome finds himself beaten by a group of locals, his“ blood spattering on the flagstones didn’t look red, but as black as the shadowy corners of a Caravaggio painting.” When describing the Venezuelan climate, Weed states, “The close tropical night was only half-diffused, a black diesel haze squatting like the underbelly of some enormous stinking beast over the corrugated roofs of the town.” Each description transports you to another corner of the Earth like a stamp in your passport and also shows Weeds skillful range as a writer. Weed’s best stories include “The Afternoon Client” in which a fishing-guide-for-hire brings a new client out into the Atlantic with an unpleasant outcome, “The Money Pill” in which an American working as a tour guide in Cuba finds much more meaning behind his sexual trysts, and “The Foreigner”, in which a photographer living in Spain has such a magical encounter with a beautiful local that it seems almost supernatural. Each tale explores what it means to be an outsider in an unfamiliar land, even if the land is our own home. The location becomes a backdrop for events that are equal parts profoundly real and delightfully dark. This is not a Lonely Planet guide to must-see destinations; these are slices in time pinpointing what it means to call yourself a traveler and not a tourist, and yet still always finding yourself to be the latter. It is clear that Weed’s many years of travel experience, plus his time working for National Geographic Expeditions in Cuba, Spain, and Argentina, have given him a unique perspective on life at home and abroad. Unfortunately, this book will only worsen your wanderlust.
Not normally an enthusiastic reader of short-story fiction, A FIELD GUIDE TO MURDER AND FLY FISHING had changed my mind. Tim is a powerful wordsmith and a creative and introspective thinker – very provocative indeed. These stories lead one to examine one’s own past with a sense of wonder and thought-provoking renewed perspective. Tim’s love and appreciation for fly fishing, travel, and his observations of various personalities show forth in abundance, as does his pure love of writing. Included among his subject matter are: Is it worth it to hold your breath and cater to an obnoxious customer? How does one deal with guilt, shame, jealousy, anger, spite, risk-taking, family, survival, loneliness and the need for friendship and love. In other words, so much more than just murder or fly fishing. As I read each story, I came to the realization that according to Sir Francis Bacon’s opening quote, each of us is closer to being a wild beast than to being a god-like creature. [And I’m not sure how much control we actually have over that behavior.] Highly recommended – one of the most powerful short novels I’ve yet to encounter.
Each story did a great job of building a feeling of anticipation. This was the common thread for me. Tim Weed is a master of giving you the feeling that "something is about to happen." The great part about this book is, sometimes something happens, and sometimes it doesn't. These stories don't contain your typical Hollywood endings. They paint a picture of the past, and leave it at that. For me, many of the stories generated a feeling of bittersweet nostalgia, and pulled on the heartstrings. I highly recommend this book, and it was also nice how each story was the perfect length to be read in one sitting.
Short story writers seem to give themselves permission to create flat-earth situations, where the characters and action move along and move along and then, suddenly, drop out of sight, leaving me, the Audible listener, wondering if there's more. I enjoyed these stories, but I wondered from time to time if Mr. Weed had simply had enough of his characters and decided to move on to the next story.
A really solid collection of stories, well developed with interesting characters although a lot of them ended in a kind of a cliff-hanger also my only complaint was, really good on the murder but kind of lacked on the fly fishing. But thoroughly enjoyed it.
Get hold of this book and get a grip for, at the very least - as the Dead put it - "least you'll enjoy the ride." Tim Weed's recent book is about truckin' wayfarers who, mistakenly stuck in the present, head off in search of a path to the future misguided by a pointless compass. "Field Guide" is a collection of fanciful short stories in which senseless endings are unpredicted and loose ends are left hanging. All of which might leave the reader at the least temporarily stuck on "pause," gasping for breath between pages tilted up in the air or even down underwater. A book like this with issues left unresolved can only be written by someone who lives by their wits to some egree, a sure-footed outdoorsy type, unafraid of slippery mountain slopes, I'm guessing politically un-indoctrinated and someone perhaps best described as far from ordinary, "existential" (meaning anti-abstract) a bit in company with, say, Lewis Carroll on the brick road, or again, with Evan S Connell while navigating sea swells in "Notes From a Bottle."
Either way, Weed's narrative is not easy to figure, at least at first, so throw away the stupid compass and all crooked mechanical contrivances, and instead hitch high your trousers and bring along as a guide to murder nothing more than a far-flung imagination to steer as destined by the windblown elements as found therapeutically essential to good health by The Healer Hippocrates. Earth, air, fire, and water, can not darkness reside hidden within? Though at some points Weed's readers might find themselves scratching their heads in disbelief at the question, wondering, perhaps with good reason, might the author himself be a metamorphic version of Lewis Carroll, caught mysteriously in the hear and now, caught teetering on the edge of the abyss? Hmm. Is Tim Weed insane?
Or is the question insane? Actually, this collection reminds me more of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, where the lonely hero - simple outside, but not so in - struggles to make his way but a day at a time. Weed's oddball day-trippers, Deadheads, daredevils, drifters, wayfarers, wanderers, n'er do well's, and city-dwellers too, who are up to no good, the whole bunch sift across the land and waters, then set adrift. Characters, for the most part, live unintended lives stuck in the present, according to makeshift arrangements, and are in effect left forever on the move. Transient misfits and shiftless foragers and pilferers are driven by restless demons and god-like divinities submerged beneath the ego's superficially unruffled surface. Nothing insubstantial stays put, neither people nor physical objects. An atmosphere of restlessness, impermanence, and weightlessness permeates the setting throughout, as aimless shit happens as if in a state of free fall in which the boundaries separating fact and fiction are as constantly shifting as snowdrifts and riverway edges.
Thing in state of permaent motion and in defiance of the laws of gravity where find cliff-hangers cling to granite crevices, windswept mountain skiiers sail forever upwards in slow motion, boaters loosen grip on side rails. Danger lurks as much from within as from without. Long-legged young women with well-rounded bottoms come across as suggestive perky, playful, and tantalizing holders of mysterious secrets held just out of reach of . They settled, live close to the ground, like Ovid's Egerias nymphs clad in soft vapors, settled in grasses fed by spring water or mountainside are fertile and associated with youthful males but beyond their comprehension. Of Greek and Roman antiquity, these mythical divinities deliver ominous warnings not to exceed limitations imposed by forces of nature, otherwise suffer the effects of undoing of self. and wander like Jews on Arabian plains worship false gods Balaam Ass glitter in desert sun at foot of Sinai. the way of bobbled bait just belowthe water's surface.
The eclectic mashup of the title of Tim Weed’s new collection, A Field Guide to Murder and Fly Fishing, aptly becomes this group of stories, ranging in style, setting and plot from magical realism to straightforward narrative, from an actual but well-deserved murder to a harrowing account of a near-drowning while fishing to an out-and-out ghost story, from Central America to Rome to New England. In spite of those differences, a common thread runs through the stories of the tenuous hold we have on the things we love, whether a pursuit, a place or a person. The best of them - “Scrimshaw,” “Six Feet Under the Prairie,” and “A Winter Break in Rome,” among others – have a ruminative sense that feels like the truth is being whispered just over one’s shoulder, telling you to pay attention to the universe. That sense is what the best of fiction should bring the reader.
This is an outstanding story collection. And while the prose isn't exactly Hemingway-terse, it still brings Papa to mind: men fishing, men on skis, men climbing mountains. But there's also a magical element here that calls Borges to mind. Who is that strange woman at the bar? Who is that young climber's companion? It's altogether a satisfying read.
I won this book on Goodreads. This author has a natural ability to bring out the story as if you were standing next to the main character. His descriptions are priceless. The stories themselves were often a thought provoking and surreal. Very enjoyable read.
One of the best collection of short stories I’ve read in years! If you love adventure, stories about finding yourself and travel you won’t be able to put this book down. I loved it so much I read half of the book in one night!