Ex-con Roy Alison would like to go straight, but he can’t seem to make up for past mistakes, and his only options are just more bad choices. Weddle’s debut novel is a suspenseful series of interrelated stories of tragedy, despair, and hopelessness in a rural Southern town. There is no joy here, as Weddle paints a vivid, depressing picture of a blue-collar community crushed by economic collapse and endemic substance abuse with characters, events, and dialogue that seem all too real. Roy easily drifts back into a world of violence and crime with his worthless cousin, Cleovis, but still harbors a desire to do right. As folks mourn for sons killed in Iraq and struggle with unemployment, Roy becomes involved in helping to carry out a string of crimes that gradually turn out to be connected. These are gritty stories of people facing nothing but bad options, though Roy eventually manages to make something good come from his situation. The most powerful image, however, is Weddle’s description of an old lady who keeps all her hopes in a little box—one that’s empty. Agent: Stacia Decker, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Nov.)
"Downright dazzling." New York Times Book Review
"This debut collection of 20 tales takes a close, respectful look at poor folks in contemporary rural Arkansas. Dark, noirish and worth a look." Kirkus Reviews
"Ex-con Roy Alison would like to go straight, but he can't seem to make up for past mistakes . . . Weddle's debut novel is a suspenseful series of interrelated stories . . . of people facing nothing but bad options, though Roy eventually manages to make something good come from his situation." Publishers Weekly
"These skillfully wrought interconnected stories form a debut novel that is relentless in describing the lives of people who are captives not only of their environment but also of their own histories." Booklist
"I cared about what happened to the residents of this rural southern community, I needed to know what kinds of shenanigans would happen next, I cried at deaths and gasped in all the appropriate places. You need to get yourself a copy of this book, like, immediately." Book Snobbery
"I am about to go bonkers for a book. COUNTRY HARDBALL is a special book. It has the intimacy, the urgency, the understated language and the wicked syntax to please whatever reader is going to give it a chance. Read it, for it is a beautiful, haunting and tainted portrait of what America has become. COUNTRY HARDBALL is alive in a way most works of fiction aren't and will never be." Dead End Follies
"Steve Weddle has given us an outstanding book. I hope people give it a shot. It's better than most of the stuff out there." - Naked But For A Loincloth blog
"This beautifully crafted saga, told in interlinking short story format.... In this small but powerful book...Weddle brings an artist's palette to his storytelling.... There is strength and beauty in this writing." - Reviewing the Evidence
"A debut novel that knocked my socks off, told in a series of stories." - Crimespree, "Jon's Gift Guide"
"Guess what? Tyrus wins again, issuing this novel in stories that is powerful in the way an accretion of details builds a larger world. A seemingly tossed-off remark here carries devastating consequences." - Grift Magazine, "Favorite Books of 2013"
"Country Hardball seeks the truth. The 18 stories are vignettes.... Together, in the big sweep, the gravity grows. And packs a wallop. There are glimmers of hope and humor and love amid the ruins." - Don't Need a Diagram
"Shiny bits of story weave in and out of this novel-in-stories, painting a lush portrait of economic and social hardship in a rural, Southern town." - LitReactor
"This novel-in-stories will have you grinding your teeth in mighty, marvelous suspense.... Weddle delivers a fresh dose of fiction that will pull your eyelids back and have you salivating for more stories. If there's one book you read this winter, it's this book, this author, this instant." - The Free Lance-Star
Calling itself a "novel-in-stories," this debut collection of 20 tales takes a close, respectful look at poor folks in contemporary rural Arkansas. Members of several families recur: Dalton, Pribble, Womack, Tatum; women named Staci, MeChell and Birdie; men named Rusty, Cleo and Skinny Dennis. Many of the stories are vignettes. Together, they paint a grim picture of a community that may or may not have been prosperous once but now is not. The few who have made it out into the world play baseball, and more than a few flamed out. Some went to war, and those that returned are damaged. The victim of one of several violent episodes wanted to be a phlebotomist and was considered ambitious. Crime is endemic. The title story has the makings of a backwoods police procedural, the deputies getting a whiff of corruption they can do nothing about while keeping an eye on the lowlifes. Fine descriptions, all of people, enliven the plain writing. Here, a father looks at his sleeping son: "He looked at what was left of the boy, skin tight over points of bone. A sprawling, dull tattoo on his chest, never finished. Maybe it was supposed to have been a dragon. Or smoke." Here, a criminal sizes up a potential victim: "He was a big guy, skin tight like a child's balloon twisted into the shape of a man." Except for one Roy Alison, we don't hear much of the characters' inner lives, as if deprivation has atrophied their capacity to reflect. The final three stories examine whether or not Roy will change his ways. Dark, noirish and worth a look.