The Book of Duels
Fierce, searing, and darkly comical, The Book of Duels reimagines in a flash the competing points of motivation—courage and cowardice, honor and vengeance—that have led individuals throughout history to risk it all.
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. John Henry and the steam drill. Cain and Abel. We think we know these stories—but what drives two people to stand on the brink of murder and death? What turns brother against brother? What did Hamilton think when he witnessed the fatal bloom of Burr’s gun? Each one of Michael Garriga’s thirty-three short short stories captures a duel’s decisive moment from three distinct perspectives. In razor-honed language, the voices of the duelists—and the third account of a witness—take center stage, training a spotlight on the misguided beliefs and perceptions that lead individuals into such conflicts.
Taking a broad historical view, but allowing for more intimate scenes as well—an alcoholic fighting the bottle, the last legal cockfight in Louisiana—Garriga’s flash fiction provides a probing and disconcerting look at humanity’s long-held notions of pride, honor, vengeance, and satisfaction. Accompanied by stunning illustrations by Tynan Kerr, The Book of Duels is a unique and remarkable debut.
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Praise and Prizes
“Michael Garriga’s prose is rich with idiom and tension, taut and visceral as the stories he tells. He writes exclusively of getting even, settling scores, honor, bullying, and cowardice. The language has biblical force and rhythms, and he goes inside these characters and brings them to us direct from their deepest parts.”
“Michael Garriga writes in the voices of ninety-nine dazzlingly varied, mortally contentious characters. Not just writes in them but inhabits them, in mind, heart, and sensibility. Garriga has instantly established himself as both a master of that profoundly modern literary form, the short short story, and a master of the human condition. One of the most extraordinary first books of fiction I’ve ever read.”
“There are many great storytellers published today, but it takes an exceptional writer to tell a story in so few words—and Michael Garriga does it brilliantly. Told candidly from the perspective of each duelist and a witness, The Book of Duels delves into the final thoughts—of honor, love, hatred, anger, God—of those facing death. Gritty and often darkly humorous, this debut collection will make readers take note of flash fiction.”
“In form and content, The Book of Duels is an outrageously original collection of fiction. Each duel is filled with searing, sharp, and powerful prose that will startle and incite deep thought.”
“Michael Garriga’s truly original and often darkly funny stories in The Book of Duels are as full of heart and blood and guts as the work of his great heroes, Cormac McCarthy and Barry Hannah, and he shares with those writers a hard-won vulnerability at the word-drunk nub of everything.”