Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016 by William H. Coles is a compilation of the titular author’s work, with nearly three dozen short stories and a novella. Interspersed are illustrations, primarily cover-style artwork for the stories themselves. The short stories vary in length, but each brings a wholly unique plot and cast of characters that are surprisingly well layered for such a compact format. Coles crisscrosses the globe with multiple locations, delivering a host of very human, very humanizing dilemmas with moral implications that require a degree of navigation on the part of the protagonists that are, ultimately, universal.
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles was exactly what I hoped it would be when I came across it. This is the type of book one would keep on a nightstand or a coffee table. It’s what you might pick up for a quick nibble of bite-sized fiction and find yourself unable to put down. Coles is witty in his writing and the narrative is as engrossing as it is fun. My favorite was the story Father Ryan, a priest on a flight (and a fair bit of complications on the ground), who is upgraded to first class. It’s a simple line but it made me really chuckle: “Father Ryan accepted the relocation without protest to a higher authority—divine or administrative.” It is the genuine human nature of the characters that make Coles’ work stand out; a big literary punch in a small ring (and a weight class of its own). Highly and enthusiastically recommended.