Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016

Award Winning Short Stories

A collection of thirty-three award-winning short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella, each about one-of-a kind characters solving serious problems in challenging settings. The stories are crafted by William H. Coles with artistic intensity for engagement and entertainment. Each short story is illustrated by one of six artists commissioned for the story. Coles’s stories are inspiring, memorable, and enjoyable–a treasured addition to any library.

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Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016

The Gift • Speaking of the Dead
Homunculus • Suchin’s Escape
The Wreck of the Amtrak’s Silver Service
The Indelible Myth • The Stonecutter
The Necklace • Nemesis • The Bear
Gatemouth Willie Brown on Guitar
The Golden Flute • Dilemma
The Amish Girl • Dr. Greiner’s Day in Court
The Cart Boy • Lost Papers
Inside the Matryoshka • Big Gene
Grief • The Miracle of Madame Villard
Clouds • Reddog
The War of the Flies
Crossing Over • Father Ryan
Facing Grace with Gloria
The Perennial Student • The Activist
Curse of a Lonely Heart
On the Road to Yazoo City
Captain Withers’s Wife
The Thirteen Nudes of Ernest Goings
Graphic Novel: Homunculus
Graphic Novel: Reddog
Novella: Sister Carrie

Buy from:
Amazon (Kindle click here) and Barnes & Noble
PDF download $2.99
Black and White edition also available at
Amazon and Barnes & Noble


The book is a collection of 33 short stories, a novella and two graphic novels. Illustrations enhance each story, supplementing the readers experience and understanding. Peter Healy wonderfully illustrated the two graphic novels, which are the retelling of previous short stories in the collection.

The characters and themes throughout this book are unique. While they share the connectedness of human struggles and moral issues, they do not intertwine. There are many messages taught through these stories which include unconditional love, acceptance, stereotyping, anguish, faith, death, birth, family values and narcissistic behaviors. Most of the stories are dark and have a miserable ending. Some offer a glimpse of hope, while others are down right horrifying.

I felt I could connect to many of the stories because they accurately portray the world we live in. I was left wanting more information and personality from some of the stories; characters that had a little more feeling. My two favorites were The Gift and SISTER CARRIE, the novella. I would highly recommend reading this contemporary collection of stories.

Author William H. Coles, has won many awards, including The Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition to name a few.

A wide-ranging volume offers a collection of short stories and a novella.

Coles (Sister Carrie, 2016, etc.) seems drawn to epiphanies begotten from moral crisis, a theme that permeates this assemblage of 33 tales and a novella, well under 100 pages. In the first story, “The Gift,” a 17-year-old girl, Catherine, becomes pregnant and is sent by her furious mother to a convent in France to deliver the child and then give it up for adoption. The baby is born without feet, but Catherine loves her deeply anyway, teaching her the difference between a disability and a blessing. In “The Necklace,” an unmarried couple struggles to figure out their future while they travel in India, but when they see tragedy befall another pair, they fully realize the depth of their love for each other. Some of the stories are so short they’re impressionistic and pull the reader into what seems like a dramatic narrative already in progress. For example, “The Bear” is two pages and details the outpouring of gratitude a man feels for life after he narrowly escapes death. Many of the tales confront a conundrum, inviting readers to draw their own conclusions. In “Dilemma,” a surgeon’s son shoots himself in an attempted suicide, and the physician has to decide if it’s either cruel or loving to try to save him, given the irreparable damage he has done to himself. The book concludes with a novella that dramatizes the love a teenage girl has for an Iranian boy possibly mixed up in terrorist activity. Cole’s compilation is as artistically ambitious as it is eclectic—one of the stories is set in France during its Revolutionary era. In addition, the author’s moral explorations are courageously unflinching and don’t shy away from either controversial or macabre subject matter. But these ethical studies can cross a line into sermonizing and read like overly didactic parables meant to impart heavy-handed lessons. Furthermore, the prose can be underwhelming: “Despite our lack-of-a-forever-marriage commitment, Helen and I were intimate good buddies, and we leveled our friendship canoe pretty well by stroking carefully in unison on opposite sides.”

Realistically gritty and morally astute, these tales can also feel overly instructional.


This is a collection of short stories about people from all walks of life and ages. This book is extremely well written and, along with short stories that comprise a big chunk of it, it also includes a novella about two people from different backgrounds and ethnicities and their mutual relationships, along with a couple of graphic novels. The short stories come with illustrations and each one stands independently of the others and can be read in any order.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles is an excellent work of fiction. The writing style and craftsmanship are superb and the illustrations complement the stories beautifully. In fact, there were times when I didn’t particularly like a short story, but loved the illustration since it captured the essence of the story so well. The stories are written about people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and depict human emotions, fears, and joys quite accurately most of the time. I also liked the fact that the stories are not just set in contemporary times, but are also set in past decades and centuries. For example, while reading “Lost Papers,” I felt I was temporarily transported to that time period where fear and uncertainty were dominant, and the credit for this certainly goes to William for his vivid depictions of that era. For anyone who likes short stories, this is a great and well-crafted collection.


A collection of short stories, graphic novels and a novella that all grapple with the idea of humanity, human errors, and how every human perceives a situation differently. Sometimes the stories are about counting your blessings and being happy with them, and sometimes the stories are about the trials and tests that humans have to go through. These stories are wholesome, entertaining and complete, giving you a fulfilling feeling. This book has a total of 33 short stories and all of them have their own characters, with their own flaws and their own wars to win.

I absolutely loved “The Necklace,” the story of a couple trying to find the rhythm of their relationship while they travel to India. They know how much they love each other, but they are uncertain about their future. However, tragedy befalls another couple; they realize how deep their feelings are for each other. I also loved the novella in which a pretty teenager falls in love with an Iranian boy, who may or may not be part of a terrorist attack. “The Dilemma” was pretty intense and emotional and I felt deeply for the characters.

All of these stories will give you a sense of satisfaction and that is thanks to the way they are written. Author William H. Coles did a wonderful job of creating realistic characters who could be anyone we see around us every day. I don’t think I can describe the way he writes; it is flawless, smooth, and very striking. These stories will speak to you on a personal level. The illustrations were simply awesome as well. All in all, this is a wonderful collection of stories that are perfect for people who simply love to read.

“Everybody has a story” is a well-worn phrase. But how many of us, as we go about our busy lives, ever stop to think about the home life of that disabled boy carrying out groceries or rounding up the emptied shopping carts around the parking lot? Or what would we find if we could read the mind and heart of that circus side-show attraction, the tiny female dwarf in the cute polka-dot dress? Or how does the trucker, who kindly stops to help a near lifeless girl on the highway, feel when his good Samaritan gesture turns his life upside-down? These are just a handful of many everyday people whose stories would never be told if it wasn’t for writers like William H. Coles.

The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is a magnificent collection of 31 short stories of varying lengths, two graphic novels, and one of his most popular novellas, Sister Carrie. And as we move from one story to another, the lives, hearts and souls of ordinary people like us are told in Coles’s straightforward, uncluttered style, where what people say and do to each other is more gripping and unforgettable than the most intricate plots ever written. What’s it like to be raised Amish and then dare to fall in love with someone outside the community? What’s it like to have to deliver a eulogy for those you can barely tolerate when their families are grieving the loss of their loved one? And who will give a stillborn child, seen as and thought of as a “thing,” some kind of burial? Stories such as these will keep us glued to The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016.

“Award-winning short stories of characters facing moral decisions that stretch their lives to mirror who they are and what they might become” is how this book has been described on Coles’s website, “Story in Literary Fiction.” That sums The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 perfectly. As a reader, Coles’ collection has reminded me of why and how literary fiction differs from popular fiction. It’s a reminder of why, as students in the sixties, we studied writers like Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert and Emily Bronte: plot mattered but character mattered more. But on a personal note, as a writer, for me The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 has opened a whole new world of possibilities. I can no longer look at the drunk passed out in a doorway downtown, or listen to the irritated voice of a customer service advisor, or watch a now disfigured young woman with the voice of an angel on America’s Got Talent who was one of only two who survived a horrific plane crash without wanting to know their story. Better yet, I am inspired to write such stories one day, and can only hope to do so as beautifully as William H. Coles has written these. I have read many books on how to write, but I’ve learned much more about writing by reading The Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016. Thank you, William H. Coles, for your inspiring and motivating stories that have touched this writer/reviewer so deeply.

Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles features 33 short stories that read like delicious desserts. A seventeen-year-old girl gets pregnant, the mother is disappointed and sends her to deliver her baby in a French convent with the hope of giving the baby away for adoption. The crippled child becomes the greatest gift of the girl’s life. Read about how the ills that touch the lives of others can provoke life-changing choices in us. Encounter the surgeon caught up in a moral dilemma to save or not to save his son after a failed attempt at murder which leaves him brain-dead. And there are a lot, lot, lot more surprises that readers will find in this selection of stories with a variety of themes and a wonderful assortment of characters.

When I started reading the Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016, it was with the intention of reading one story at a time, but it was irresistible, and I found myself going from story to story. William H. Coles seems to be a master of the art of the short story. Each story is composed to read like a miniskirt; short enough to provoke the reader’s curiosity and long enough to keep the essential hidden until the last moment. The stories are exciting, containing wonderful plot lines, complicated issues to deal with, and amazing characters. The author combines humor and wit with the art of the short story to bring a world of entertainment to readers. This is one of my best collections of short stories, after Langston Hughes.


An exceptional compendium of 33 short stories, two graphic novels, and a novella, a collection that offers a wonderful literary treat, beautifully told and brimming with exquisite beauty. “The Gift” introduces the collection, and it features a family conflict developed around an unwanted pregnancy. When seventeen-year-old Catherine gets pregnant, her mother, Agnes, has a clear plan for her. “Agnes kept her plan simple. After the birth, far away, an immediate adoption was the only solution, and after the town no longer remembered or cared, Catherine could return to live out her penance.” But Catherine has her own plans as well. And the child, born without feet, will transform her life in ways no one could have imagined.

This is just a taste of what awaits the reader in this collection, for there is a variety of stories, each with a unique plot, a unique conflict driving it, and quite often readers are confronted with suspenseful situations. The stories are well-developed and crafted to keep the reader turning the pages. Some read like little gems, others like a refreshing drink. It is difficult not to notice the entertaining character of the stories, with well-developed characters that fit neatly into exciting settings. Readers will enjoy William H. Coles’ gift for style, his excellent prose, and his uncanny ability to lead readers into the inner workings of his characters’ minds. The stories have both psychological and emotional depth, are conflict driven, and masterfully plotted. Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 is both exciting and compelling in its originality and the illustrations add color to the overall reading experience.

read 40 reviews from Indie Book Reviews

– Well-written, intriguing and thought provoking. This compilation of tales on the human experience as told by author William H. Coles will touch your heart, mind and soul, and leave you wanting more! “The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016” is an impressive collection of over 30 short stories, some graphic novels, and then a novella at the end — each based on different characters from wildly different walks of life, and we experience a part of their life with them. Sometimes it’s like a snapshot, other times a little more expanded. I was thrilled that for a short story collection it is quite long! (over 500 pages) and honestly I marvel at the fact that just one man wrote all of these. How talented! Each had its own distinct feel, yet all flowed nicely for the overall tone of the book: pivotal moments in life, challenging the psyche and looking inward, questioning ‘reality’…And I found each story length to be perfect to take in smaller doses, do something else for a bit, then read another story. They each reveal different aspects of humanity and unique characters, but they are also very relatable. Some are just 5-6just few pages long, but several are around 20 (or more). And as the title suggests there is a novella at the end “Sister Carrie”, which was actually my favorite. But the graphic novels were super cool too. Loved the illustrations before each story as they did a great job of capturing the vibe. Great editing and presentation. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others to read as well who enjoy literary short stories. (5 stars).


In his expansive short story collection, author William H. Coles treats readers to 16 years of his short form literary fiction, including two stories presented with their own graphic novel style adaptations. Interspersed are accompanying illustrations from various artists.

Coles excels at diverse and expertly crafted character studies. Whether his subjects are physicians or felons, carnies or clergy, teachers or truckers, each is a nexus of psychologically rich relationships. Some of his finest stories are sweet-hearted renderings of hapless romance: A carnival dwarf enamored with a dashing trapeze artist, a college boy’s ingenuous courtship of an Amish girl, a professor’s repressed desire for a vexatious student. Others memorably explore darker sides of love: a man on the eve of marriage confronting the legacy of an act of childhood violence; a famous artist whose family and career are threatened by rumors of an illicit relationship.

All-told, there are 34 stories, a novella, and the two graphic adaptations, and most are comparable to work found in premiere literary journals. “Dr. Greiner’s Day in Court,” for example, precisely captures the voice of a teen girl, her simultaneous loathing of and loyalty to her brother, and the crushing realization of their father’s guilt—all in six suggestive pages.

Some, however, fall short: “The Bear” (recounted by the survivor of a bear attack) ends untidily in hasty confusion, and “Dilemma” (where a surgeon father intervenes after his son’s attempted suicide) prizes medical minutia over emotional impact. Additionally, with the exception of the graphic novel adaptations, which are evocatively rendered, the illustrations are of unequal quality and inconsistent style, ultimately seeming a superfluous addition to Coles’ prose.

Careful curation would propel this collection from good to great, but there can be no mistake about Coles’s talent. In this extensive volume there’s a story for virtually everyone, and readers of journals such as Ploughshares or Glimmer Train will find a welcoming home within its pages.