“Avery Colt Is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar” by Ron A. Austin and published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press in October 2019, has been longlisted for the prestigious 2020 Pen/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection.
The PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for a Debut Short Story Collection honors an exceptionally talented writer whose first book, a collection of short stories, represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise of a second work of literary fiction. One winner will be selected by a panel of three to four writers or editors who are PEN America Members. The winner will receive a $25,000 cash prize intended to allow significant time and resources with which to pursue a subsequent work of fiction.
Austin, who teaches writing in St. Louis, Missouri, won Southeast Missouri State University Press’ Nilsen Prize for a First Novel, Novella or Linked Story collection in 2018, which led to his book’s publication. The book was selected for publication by Dr. James Brubaker, with the help of Press interns and Graduate Assistants from a large pool of contest entries.
Austin’s semi-autobiographical, linked story collection follows the misadventures of Avery Colt as he struggles to survive in North St. Louis alongside his family. Learning the best way to slaughter a goat, rebuilding his family’s corner market, and reckoning the weight of a revolver are a few of the challenges Avery faces. As he matures through each page, Avery takes control of his circumstances and attempts dangerous feats of alchemy. By confronting his own fears and limitations, he seeks to transform cruelty into compassion, rind into fruit, despair into hope. Charged with urgency and emotion, Austin’s prose faithfully renders a community determined to overcome crisis with strength, dark humor and plenty of heart.