One of the ways I judge my fiction is by its relative veracity. It bugs the hell out of me when writers get easy things wrong: gun details, car details, wildlife, you name it. In Sheldon Compton's The Same Terrible Storm is that there's never a misstep, never even an implicit hesitation. With all the details in place, the stories have room for language, plot, and characters to move in ways unusual and fine.
Take "First Timers," for instance, a short and sharp piece from the book's middle.
The guy behind us, standing with Josh, looks like he just walked out of a tree and turned to rock. It's Hank, Amy's dad. I figure if he stood by the fence and the pen, he'd blend into the wood (56).
Quietly, these few words do a great deal of work for the story. The story begins with a few young men (I'm guessing late adolescence, since it's not made explicit) speeding down a road while hung over, it's the appropriate place for the young ones to begin to get their comeuppance. It's safe to say none of them would look as if they'd walked out of a tree and turned to rock; they won't be threatening Hank for primacy.
The two brief scenes in the full story highlight the difference between the narrator and his buddies. They play at being hardasses by drinking and thinking, more or less. Josh is "soft as a couch cushion" compared with Hank, even as he holds a shotgun and shells in readiness to do the pig in. Almost needless to say, Josh can't do it, and the plot turns to Hank and our surety that he will be able.
Compton's skill in bringing life to characters via the small and telling detail is superb. In nearly every story here, no matter the mode, third person, first person, omniscient or not, the plot rises and falls from those character details, and not by the engine of a cockamamie tacked-on plot.
Sheldon's a friend of mine, so in the end this is an appreciation really, not a review. I am positively giddy to see what he can do within the context of a novel, which I know will come sooner than later. This is an excellent collection, though, worth your time and hard-earned money. Send me a message at email@example.com with The Same Terrible Storm in the subject line, and I'll send the first two people who respond a copy of the book for their very own.