Two Shots of the Good Stuff: Amy Hempel and Maureen F. McHugh

A day late, a dollar short, but would it be the cavalry if it arrived on time? Okay, work, Thanksgiving, and illness have let the old blog get dusty, so here’s two shots of short story goodness from two fantastic writers, both of which riff on animals and death.

Amy Hempel, “Nashville Gone to Ashes” was just a joy to read. I think Gary Braunbeck recommended her to me, back a few years ago, and she’s a delightful crafter of short stuff. Her stories and word choice are rich and neat and go hand in glove with this story of a widow and the life she inherits from her dead veterinarian husband. Damn, she makes great writing look easy, then you look at the careful way she makes cause and effect jump in her sentences, creating tension and expectation that she then subverts, and you realize her attention to detail was pretty OCD. Loved it and had to stop myself from devouring the next story. Always a good sign from a collection.

Maureen F. McHugh’s “In the Air” also ties in nice with a tale of ghosts and pet ownership, and also how grief can freeze people into a moment of time.  A carefully paced and often funny story, with a wonderful twist to what could have been a very ordinary ghost story. So often, short stories fail because, as Nick Mamatas said to me once, “they don’t end. They just stop.” McHugh knows that a strong ending is even more important than a strong beginning because it has all of the story’s  and readers’ expectations locked in it. And here, it’s wonderful.

I hope to add even more women to my short story readings. If you have a favorite, let me know!

Happy (US) Thanksgiving!



About ridlerville

Jason S. Ridler is a historian, writer, and improv actor. He is the author of A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA, BLOOD AND SAWDUST, the Spar Battersea thrillers and has published over sixty stories in such magazines and anthologies as The Big Click, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Out of the Gutter, and more. He also writes the column FXXK WRITING! for Flash Fiction Online. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Richmond, CA. Visit him on Facebook at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s