February 2019 favorites

February 2019

The February stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Ultima Thule’ by Vladimir Nabokov
  2. ‘On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning’ by Haruki Murakami
  3. ‘Silences’ by Helen Elaine Lee
  4. ‘A Losing Game’ by J.F. Powers
  5. ‘Someone Has Been Disarranging These Roses’ by Gabriel García Márquez
  6. ‘City Lovers’ by Nadine Gordimer
  7. ‘Violets’ by Edna O’Brien
  8. ‘The Anatomy Of Desire’ by John L’Heureux
  9. ‘The Actual Thing’ by William Maxwell
  10. ‘Tennessee’s Partner’ by Bret Harte
  11. ‘One Friday Morning’ by Langston Hughes
  12. ‘After Twenty Years’ by O. Henry
  13. ‘In A House Of Wooden Monkeys’ by Shay Youngblood
  14. ‘Jerry And Molly And Sam’ by Raymond Carver
  15. ‘The MYMan Solution’ by Helen Phillips

As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.


May 2016 favorites


May 2016

The May stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘The Story Of My Dovecote’ by Isaac Babel
  2. ‘The Swimmer’ by John Cheever
  3. ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  4. ‘The Ransom Of Red Chief’ by O. Henry
  5. ‘The Luck Of Roaring Camp’ by Bret Harte
  6. ‘Drummond & Son’ by Charles D’Ambrosio
  7. ‘Thank You Ma’am’ by Langston Hughes
  8. ‘The Duplicity Of Hargraves’ by O. Henry
  9. ‘A Summer’s Reading’ by Bernard Malamud
  10. ‘The Swimmers’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. ‘Prizes’ by Janet Frame
  12. ‘The Student’s Wife’ by Raymond Carver
  13. ‘My Father Sits In The Dark’ by Jerome Weidman
  14. ‘The Cop And The Anthem’ by O. Henry
  15. ‘Tobin’s Palm’ by O. Henry
  16. ‘The Clarion Call’ by O. Henry

What do you think about this list? As always, join the conversation in the comments section below, on SSMT Facebook or on Twitter @ShortStoryMT.

October 2014 favorites


October 2014

The October stories ordered solely on my personal tastes.

  1. ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ by Flannery O’Connor
  2. ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ by Flannery O’Connor
  3. ‘The River’ by Flannery O’Connor
  4. ‘A&P’ by John Updike
  5. ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’ by Flannery O’Connor
  6. ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
  7. ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe
  8. ‘Nilda’ by Junot Diaz
  9. ‘Young Goodman Brown’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  10. ‘The Lady’s Maid’s Bell’ by Edith Wharton
  11. ‘Luella Miller’ by Mary Wilkins Freeman
  12. ‘The Outcasts Of Poker Flat’ by Bret Harte
  13. ‘The Sutton Place Story’ by John Cheever
  14. ‘Premium Harmony’ by Stephen King
  15. ‘Paper Losses’ by Lorrie Moore
  16. ‘This Morning, This Evening, So Soon’ by James Baldwin
  17. ‘Three Players Of A Summer Game’ by Tennessee Williams
  18. ‘A Stroke Of Good Fortune’ by Flannery O’Connor
  19. ‘The Body Snatcher’ by Robert Louis Stevenson
  20. ‘Awake’ by Tobias Wolff
  21. ‘In Greenwich, There Are Many Gravelled Walks’ by Hortense Calisher
  22. ‘A Dark Brown Dog’ by Stephen Crane
  23. ‘Nothing Ever Breaks Except The Heart’ by Kay Boyle

‘The Outcasts Of Poker Flat’ by Bret Harte

Harte, Bret 1869

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat by Bret Harte, 1869

The magic trick:

Bringing the Oakhurst character to the fore in order to better highlight the ensemble cast

The template is tried and true. Bring an eclectic group of people together, isolate them, challenge them, and see how they adapt. Harte works the concept perfectly, manipulating the reader’s emotions like a champ.

The key is in pulling the Oakhurst character to the fore. This allows the reader to see the other characters from his perspective, to compare and contrast the other characters against him, and, in the end, to enjoy a nice bit of irony on which to reflect.

And that’s quite a trick on Harte’s part.

The selection:

“Luck,” continued the gambler, reflectively, “is a mighty queer thing. All you know about it for certain is that it’s bound to change. And it’s finding out when it’s going to change that makes you. We’ve had a streak of bad luck since we left Poker Flat, – you come along, and slap you get into it, too. If you can hold your cards right along you’re all right.”