Down Along the Piney: Ozarks Stories

John Mort (Author)


Down Along the Piney is John Mort's fourth short-story collection and winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Short Fiction. With settings in Florida, California, Mexico, Chicago, the Texas Panhandle, and, of course, the Ozarks themselves, these thirteen stories portray the unsung, amusing, brutal, forever hopeful lives of ordinary people. Mort chronicles the struggles of flyover people who live not just in the Midwest, but anywhere you can find a farm, small town, or river winding through forested hills. Mort, whose earlier stories have appeared in the New Yorker, GQ, and The Chicago Tribune, is the author of the award-winning Vietnam War novel Soldier in Paradise, as well as Goat Boy of the Ozarks and The Illegal. These ironic, unflaggingly honest stories will remind the reader of Jim Harrison, Sherwood Anderson, and Shirley Jackson.--Booklist

Product Details

$20.00  $18.40
University of Notre Dame Press
Publish Date
September 30, 2018
5.98 X 0.45 X 9.02 inches | 0.64 pounds

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About the Author

John Mort's first novel, Soldier in Paradise, won the W. Y. Boyd Award for best military fiction. He has published seven other books, including the story collections Tanks, The Walnut King, and Dont Mean Nothin: Vietnam War Stories. John Mort served in Vietnam with the First Cavalry and afterwards attended the University of Iowa, receiving MFA and MLS degrees. He is a member of the Western Writers of America and in 2013 won a Spur Award for his short story, The Hog Whisperer, included in this volume. He lives in southern Missouri where he raises vegetables and fruit.


"In the Ozarks of this book, there are few jobs. Industrial farming killed all the family farms, meth addiction has destroyed communities, and many people are ready to succumb to any savior they can afford, whether it be God, drugs, alcohol, or books. . . . Honest and sometimes hopeless, these stories offer haunting perspectives on poverty, post-military life, and American masculinity"--Foreword Reviews
"What animates most of these stories are the characters looking for something from life that they cannot quite articulate and have not yet found or attained. . . . Many of these stories are gritty, but this collection is not part of the 'Ozarks noir' genre currently in vogue. Very little meth, moonshine, or monkeyshines occur in these stories."--Ozarks Watch
"In his return to the short form, Vietnam veteran John Mort delivers 13 stories about everyday Americans looking for love, acceptance, and a place to call home. . . . Mort's understated, funny, and deeply moving collection illustrates the entangled decisions behind escaping or embracing small-town life in the South--a world of guns, big storms, and living off the land."--Booklist
"A new collection by John Mort is always a cause for celebration. Down Along the Piney solidifies his career as one of our most reliable raconteurs of the Ozarks. Anchored in the fictional town of Mountain Vale and the very real Piney River, Mort's humble and imperfect characters may wander up to Kansas or further south, but the blue-green hills remain in their blood. Mort's trademark strengths are everywhere in evidence: the confident and fast-paced story-telling, the spot-on dialogue, the sly humor. I've always admired how efficiently he enters a story, but this time round it is his graceful exits that impressed. This is a marvelous collection, without an ounce of dross."--Catherine Browder, author of Now We Can All Go Home: Three Novellas in Homage to Chekhov
"John Mort writes about the Midwest and South, but his stories are universal. Down Along the Piney is filled with memorable, believable characters and prose that grabs you from the first word to the last."--Johnny D. Boggs, author of Greasy Grass: A Story of the Little Big Horn
"John Mort's gritty, gorgeous collection stands as something exquisite and lush in the desert of America's failed attempts at intimacy. In a series of very powerful, spare, and loving stories his vision resonates, thunders, and crafts lightning from the sky. I won't soon forget the words one of his fiercely wrought people speaks: 'The world was so full of cruelty that a little kindness was more powerful than the unleashed atom.'"--Shann Ray, author of Atomic Theory 432 and American Masculine
"John Mort's Down Along the Piney captures an enormous range of characters in its collection of stories: misfits, idealists, war-scarred veterans, dream-drenched teenagers, holy fools, garden-variety fools, and ordinary people simply trying to get through the day. The stories take place anywhere from Missouri to Mexico, but the Ozarks are woven into all of them. Expatriates dream of returning, natives imagine fleeing, travelers find themselves permanently changed. This is not the Ozarks of cornpone mythology or gothic crime fiction, but a truer and more haunted place, one that could only have been depicted by someone with deep sympathies and an exacting eye. These stories pin you down and do not let up."--Steve Wiegenstein, author of Slant of Light: A Novel of Utopian Dreams and Civil War
"I've been a fan of John Mort's short fiction since I was bowled over by his collection Tanks in the mid-eighties. Down Along the Piney stands with the best work he's done--and that's saying something as John Mort is a master of the short story. These spare, evocative tales contain razor-sharp dialogue, intriguing plots, and memorable characters. Highly recommended."--Marc Leepson, arts editor, The VVA Veteran
"This fourth collection of short stories by John Mort brings to mind the work of Flannery O'Connor's broken characters. The struggle, bewilderment and fragility of the folks "down along the Piney" in the Ozarks is reflective of so many human experiences that provide an image of all of us. Cruelty and kindness blend their way throughout these stories in a way that touches each of us in that dark place where we hide our secrets."--RoundUp Magazine
"Mort writes edge-of the seat fictional masterpieces, presenting characters for us to root for and cherish, as well as the other kind. They are all-American people who breathe on the page--people we wish we knew, people we do know, or people we are happy we have yet to encounter."--The VVA Veteran, Books in Review I
"Down Along the Piney is comprised of thirteen stories that collectively portray the unsung, amusing, brutal, forever hopeful lives of ordinary people. . . .These iconoclastic, deftly crafted, and inherently engaging short stories reveal the author's impressive narrative driven storytelling skills."--Midwest Book Review
"The title seems appropriate for a collection of folksy tales about folksy folks who live along picturesque Big Piney Creek in Arkansas. Wrong. Welcome to the down and out who populate the Piney Valley of meth and mistakes."--Military Times
"John Mort has quietly been assembling a significant body of work in novels and short stories that go back more than thirty years. . . . Down Along the Piney is an admirable addition to any bookshelf of Ozarks writing, with stories that are sad and sweet in roughly equal measure."--Elder Mountain: A Journal of Ozarks Studies
"Mort's style is marked by a fluidity and confidence. He can end a story as abruptly as Anton Chekhov or Ellen Gilchrist and writes in sentences that are crystal clear, straightforward, and so natural as to disguise the painstaking craft of their making."--American Book Review
"These are more than just regional tales of flyover country, but deeply imaginative and often surprising accounts of the vast interior life of all sorts of folks who rarely appear in contemporary fiction."--Arkansas Review