Friday 15 February 2019



"Stories of desire and loss, crime and trouble, play out among the abandoned docks and potato barns of what had once been a quiet community. . . . The part of eastern Long Island portrayed here is Joel Mowdy’s Yoknapatawpha—he knows it and makes us want to know it.”—Zachary Lazar, author of Vengeance

The twelve linked stories in Joel Mowdy's first book take place in and around Mastic Beach, a community on New York's Long Island that's close to the wealthy Hamptons but long afflicted by widespread poverty. Mostly in their teens and early twenties, the characters struggle to become independent in various ways, ranging from taking typical low-paying jobs—hotel laundry, janitorial, restaurant, and landscaping work—to highly ingenious schemes, to exchanging sexual favors for a place to stay. A few make it to local community colleges; others end up in rehab or juvenile detention centers. However loving, their parents can offer little help. Those who are Vietnam veterans may suffer from PTSD; others from the addictions that often come with stressful lives.

Neighborhoods of small bungalows—formerly vacation homes—with dilapidated boats in the driveways hint at the waterways that open up close by. The beauty of the ocean beach offers further consolation, as does the often high-spirited temperament of youth. Joel Mowdy brings to his affecting collection both personal experience and a gift for discerning and lingering on the essential moments in his characters' stories. He intimately and vividly illuminates American lives that too seldom see the light.

A decent enough collection of short stories, but in truth one which probably won't live too long in the memory. None of the tales were especially stunning for me - no shock and awe registered with this reader. Nothing grated either. I kind of hoped for more though.

Maybe, I'm an inattentive reader, but I expected a bit more connectivity and crossover with events and people than I actually felt there was between these twelve tales. Some events and a couple of the people did register across the stories and I did enjoy the mattress tag-switching scam and the involvement of the disabled guy in the scheme.

Nothing to hate, nothing to love. Just a mild sense of disappointment overall. Maybe not disappointment - more indifference.

3 from 5

Floyd Harbor Stories is I think Joel Mowdy's debut collection.

Read in February, 2019
Published - 2019 - due out in May
Page count - 252
Source - Edelweiss Above the Treeline early reviewer site.
Format - ePub read on laptop


  1. I'm glad you weren't thoroughly disappointed, Col. I know what you mean about a collection like that, though. There's nothing strong to catch hold of, so to speak. The context interests me, but if the stories don't 'grab,'...

  2. Sorry to hear this one didn't grab you. I might try to remember to look it out anyway, come May (why such an early review?), since I've been in and around that area from time to time (there's a splendid quasi-annual convention in that part of Long Island I sometimes go to) but never really stopped to get to know it.

    1. I suppose I wanted to get my semi-coherent thoughts together while they were relatively fresh, though I suppose I could have sat on it for a few months. Hopefully if you do give this a go, you can tell me what I missed!

  3. I like the idea of linked stories, but I can understand your disappointment if the links were not so obvious. Interesting that it is set in a poor area near to the Hamptons.

    1. Me too, I had hoped the linkage kind of gave it a novel in episodes type feel, but not for me. And I had hoped there was more of a contrast between the haves and the have nots.

  4. Col, if it's a collection of short stories, then I usually happen to like two or three. I don't think I have enjoyed every story in an anthology by the same or various writers.

    1. There's usually some unevenness in a collection or anthology of short stories - that's probably a given. I think here the writing was good, but nothing was especially haunting or memorable. There was nothing that stopped me in my tracks.