Minimal Damage: Stories of Veterans

Overview

The Salt Lake City Tribune has called Lee Barnes “one of the finest writers of short stories in the contemporary West.” Minimal Damage contains seven stories and a novella that depict veterans of several wars in search of dignity and purpose in a civilian life that has no need for men who were soldiers. With emotion, humor, and clarity, Barnes creates characters who show us what it is to live with the trauma of having experienced combat. The fractured souls and twisted lives of these men remind us that war’s ...
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Overview

The Salt Lake City Tribune has called Lee Barnes “one of the finest writers of short stories in the contemporary West.” Minimal Damage contains seven stories and a novella that depict veterans of several wars in search of dignity and purpose in a civilian life that has no need for men who were soldiers. With emotion, humor, and clarity, Barnes creates characters who show us what it is to live with the trauma of having experienced combat. The fractured souls and twisted lives of these men remind us that war’s ultimate damage extends far beyond the battlefield. 
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

War shows its human face in former Green Beret Barnes's mostly successful collection about veterans of Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Mogadishu and Iraq trying to get on with their civilian lives after experiencing the horrors of battle. In "Punishment," a former army medic, counting down his last hours on death row (he killed a policeman), relives the time he saved the life of an enemy soldier during the Panama invasion. In the title story, a black Desert Storm veteran finds his ordinary existence turned upside down when the victims of a serial killer are found buried around his house. And in the novella, "Snake Boy," a heroin-addicted, homeless Vietnam vet is kidnapped by a snake-handling evangelist who cures the vet of his addiction and forces him to join his traveling show. In several of the stories, the veteran angle seems peripheral, but the strongest pieces exemplify the words of one character who tells his daughter that "all we can do is invent myths to smooth the harshness." The lives on display here do just that in stories told with understated compassion and unexpected flashes of humor. (Sept.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Through seven stories and a novella, Barnes (Dummy Up and Deal: Inside the Culture of Casino Dealing, 2002, etc.) explores the lives, legacies and memories of veterans, all damaged by their war experiences. The best story in the collection, "Groundwork," is also the most atypical, a wicked little satire on contemporary culture. Among other possibilities for a new reality-television show (Niagara Falls Kayak Team Jumping and Miss-Heavenly-Ankles Beauty Pageant were mercifully scratched), the programming genius Mr. K (shades of Kafka) endorses the brilliant idea to have gangs duke it out on live television. "They kill each other anyhow, right?" one of his minions reasons. Mr. K knows that Americans have an insatiable appetite for violence: "They want death and they want it live." So the The Gangbanger Grand Prix is off and running. Barnes does not indulge his penchant for satire often enough, however, for many of the stories are drearily serious and overly predictable. In "Punishment," a vet awaits his execution for having killed a cop. "Minimal Damage" focuses on Rodney, a black Gulf War vet who has unknowingly purchased a house that formerly belonged to a serial killer. As bodies are discovered in the basement, Rodney reviews the unfairness with which these violent acts are visited upon his marriage, his career and his standing in the community. In "Into the Silence," a Vietnam vet experiences posttraumatic stress disorder complicated by paranoia and delusions. "Snake Boy" is a novella focusing on Pate, who's rescued from postwar drug issues by Bristol, a shady preacher traveling around the Southwest states. Pate fulfills the role announced by the title, caring for the 12 snakes-namedafter the disciples-that Bristol needs for his revival services. Occasionally turgid prose mars this work about damage and loss.
From the Publisher

"In this well-formed, unified collection, the fault line between those who have served as soldiers and those who haven't is laid bare." Reno News & Review

War shows its human face in former Green Beret Barnes's mostly successful collection about veterans ... trying to get with their civilian lives after experiencing the horrors of battle. ... the strongest ieces exemplify the words of one character who tells his daughter that 'all we can do is invent myths to smooth the harshness.' The lives on display here do just that in stories told with understated compassiona and unexpected flashes of humor. Publishers Weekly, June 4, 2007

Brillian, beautifully rendered collection of short fiction. Aside from a compelling main character, each of the stories has an intriguing plot that hums along rapidly. ... My highest compliment: I didn't want the stories to end. The Veteran, Books in Review, March/April 2008.

Barnes already proved himself as one of today's best, and unjustly obscure, literary war writers. His 2000 debut collection, Gunning for Ho, pulled no punches in depicting the abject horror and black humor of armed conflct. ... You need to read and re-read every single story in Minimal Damage.... Barnes is a literary writer who works hard to defy expectations and avoid cliches. It's one of his great gifts as a storyteller. ... Minimal Damage hits the reader with maximum impact. Las Veags City Life, November 15, 2007

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780874179118
  • Publisher: University of Nevada Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2013
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

H. Lee Barnes is a former Green Beret and Vietnam War veteran who has worked as a deputy sheriff, private investigator, and casino dealer. He currently teaches English and creative writing at the Community College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. He is the author of three short story collections, another novel, a memoir, and a nonfiction book about casino workers. His short fiction has received the Willamette Fiction Award and the Arizona Authors Association Fiction Award, and in 2009, he was elected to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. 
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