West Virginia University Press will release Working it Off in Labor County, Larry D. Thacker’s newest book and first collection of short stories, in February of 2021. Already the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia, three full poetry collections and two chapbooks, this is Thacker’s seventh book.
More than a collection of tales, Working It Off in Labor County assembles memorable characters who recur across seventeen linked stories, sharing in one another’s struggles and stumbling upon humor and mystery, the grotesque and the divine, each in many forms.
The residents of Labor County, a fictional small community in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky, may be short on cash, but they are rich in creativity and tirelessly inventive as they concoct new schemes to make ends meet, settle old scores, and work off their debts to society and, in a way, to themselves.
A zealous history professor is caught stealing from the local museum in protest of petty theft; an arsonist strikes it lucky—twice; a skilled leatherworker saddles a turkey and finds a rider; an angel aspires to be a punk rock Roller Derby princess; a grieving artist carves a miracle into a roadside rock face; and affable Uncle Archie produces a seemingly unending supply of new and bizarre items to display in his Odditorium.
In the words of Uncle Archie, “It seems like everybody but people from here are sure about what we’re about, and they make money being wrong about it.”
“I’ve found such a pleasure and challenge in fiction, since branching out from my first love of poetry,” says Thacker. “There’s the rich stuff of humor and tragedy and mystery in our daily lives. Those stories are worth searching for and bringing to life.”
Well-known writers and reviews are offering thoughts on the collection.
“A rollicking portrayal of small-town Kentucky life . . . unified by strong narrative drive and well-crafted prose. Fans of George Singleton will love this.”
“There’s a country song on every page. . . These characters want out, want in, yearn for some luck, lose whatever fortunes appear in their lives. This collection’s a keeper, worthy of shelf space between Larry Brown and Merle Haggard.”
George Singleton, author of You Want More: Selected Stories
“Energetic, humorous, and full of heart. Thacker’s voice feels fresh and alive.”
Jonathan Corcoran, author of The Rope Swing
“Thacker’s linked collection is a carnival ride of southern gothic tales and freak-show oddities. . . Hilarious, yes, but it’s also a thoughtful exploration of the residents of Labor County, Kentucky, who are desperate to pull meaning out of loss.”
Marie Manilla, author of The Patron Saint of Ugly
“Larry Thacker’s stories have bark, but they also have bite. These Labor County people aren’t real, I keep telling myself that. They are just figments a writer made up in his head. But when you come away from this book, you’ll feel that you’ve encountered a cast of characters who are going to stay with you—like newfound kin or a bad feeling in the bottom of your brain. Thacker writes like a wild man with a mean streak, breaking your tired heart all along the way.”
Charles Dodd White, author of How Fire Runs and In the House of Wilderness
Thacker will be reading from his work at events throughout the Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and West Virginia region in the coming year. Copies are available from West Virginia University Press at: Working It Off in Labor County: Stories | West Virginia University Press (wvupressonline.com), Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the author. Keep up with the author at www.larrydthacker.com and on Instagram at: thackalachia.