Monthly Archives: April 2015

‘The Red Corner’ wins novel award

My novel manuscript, The Red Corner, recently won the Hackney Literary Award, a $5,000 prize for an unpublished novel. Below is an excerpt that ran in The Great Lakes ReviewIt is set at a party at the lakeside mansion of a Russian mobster in suburban Chicago. (Also check out the opening chapters, an earlier version of which originally ran in Narrative magazine, here.)

Fingers

By Russell Working

Whore_of_Babylon

The day of Garik’s party, a warm front blew in, and Darya Vanderkloot’s sore throat disappeared. It was eighty-six along Lake Michigan, and most of staff of the Cherry Orchard Russian Deli & Productery worked in their shirt sleeves as they loaded the van with cases of wine, plastic bins of food, and coolers of salad, lox, deviled eggs, frozen pelmeni, cakes, sirloin. Like the others, Darya, wore her catering uniform: a white shirt, black bow tie, and baggy pants with a hound’s-tooth check pattern, but she kept an eye on Alexei. He cut a debonair figure, like a young celebrity chief, until he shrugged on a hoodie, despite the warm weather, and shouldered his backpack, transforming himself into a freebooter on a boarding raid. Everyone worked briskly, cheerful about the change in routine, but Alexei’s scowl kept the others at bay. He brushed right past Darya without hearing her hello.

“Hey, you!” she said.

He looked perplexed. “Oh, hi.”

“You all right?”

“Never better,” he said, then went back inside for another load.

They were catering a party for a new customer named Igor “Garik” Voskresensky, who had just shown up in the Cherry Orchard a few weeks ago. Eleven years ago, in Vladivostok, he had assassinated Alexei’s father, who was running for governor. Alexei had witnessed the murder as a child, and he immediately recognized the hit man. But now he was eighteen, and the disguise of adulthood held, while Garik had no idea who he was. Alexei and Darya had not been close, but he had chosen to confide in her for some reason. The boy was a loner, an amateur boxer and astronomy buff, and maybe he had no one else to talk to. Continue reading

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An Open Letter to the Lab Mouse, Presumably Deceased, Upon Whose Back Scientists First Grew a Human-Looking Ear

earmouseNote: Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency has a section called “Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond.” Many of these are amusing, some less so. But after I read a few, the Muse descended, and, aflame with divine inspiration—the gods whispering in my hearing aids—I wrote my own epistle. In a puzzling lapse in taste, McSweeney’s rejected my letter. Bums! They’re wrong!

Or are they? Since “Open Letters to [Etc.]” is a feature that is unique to McSweeney’s, as far as I know, I can’t shop this around at other publications and prove that editor C— (not his real name) made a grave mistake. Instead, I offer my multitudinous readership a chance to vote on whether, inexplicably, this famous publication blew it. (They did.) Here’s the letter to the earmouse:

Dear Little Friend:

True, we have never met, but I hope you’ll forgive the familiarity, up there in your nest of shavings in that great cage in the sky, where you certainly now reside, the average lifespan of a mouse being only two years.  But as you nibble your eternal supply of unsalted sunflower seeds, I feel as if I could lean over and confide in that human-looking ear on your back.  You would listen.  You’d care.  I say this not merely because you won worldwide sympathy as a hairless rodent who, without signing any consent forms, was caused by scientists to grow a wrestling coach’s cauliflower ear on its back.  The thing is (and I will admit this is selfish), I keep hoping someone will grow a new set of ears for me on some mouse’s back, and I can get rid of my hearing aids. Continue reading

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Filed under Graphomania, Rodents