A debut collection of stories by a poet with a “painter’s eye for detail and pianist’s touch for sounding the right notes” (Simon Armitage).
Moving from remote, sun-scorched towns to the charged hum of Venice Beach, The Burning Ground is a collection of eight stories populated by men haunted by their past and by their dreams, set against the canvas of California, where beauty and bleakness go hand in hand. In “A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica,” a man’s unmoored lifestyle is reflected back at him after a long flight. In “Black Bear in the Snow,” a divorced advertising executive tries to rekindle a relationship with his son. And in the title story, “The Burning Ground,” a painter is haunted by memories of his former lover. The stories take familiar roles—the deadbeat dad, the drifting divorcé, the wayward man—and bring them new emotional depth, peeling back the layers to reveal interiors both unexpected and arresting in their complexity.
Written with a poet’s lyricism and an outsider’s keen eye, Adam O’Riordan’s insightful work paints an intimate portrait of diverse male lives contending with the potential of the West Coast.
The debut short story collection by O'Riordan (author of the poetry collection In the Flesh) quietly examines the inner lives of men struggling to connect with others family members, lovers, or even strangers encountered briefly against the richly symbolic backdrop of the American West Coast. In "A Thunderstorm in Santa Monica," a man named Harvey has flown in from London to visit his occasional lover, Teresa. But when her work requires her to leave suddenly for New York during his visit, Harvey finds himself reaching out to his seatmate on the flight over, with whom he shared a moment of intimacy and comfort when both men thought the plane was going down. And in a seeming homage to the Los Angeles noir tradition, "Rambla Pacifico" follows the journey of a man named Lindstrom into the city's violent underbelly as he investigates the disappearance of his boss's daughter. "Black Bear in the Snow" recounts a hunting trip during which a father tries to repair a fractured relationship with his adolescent son. Lovers are lost and mourned in these sharp and sometimes violent stories, and characters suffer through turbulence both literal and metaphorical, haunted by questions they never asked. O'Riordan is particularly skilled at finding the perfect image or detail to bring these worlds to life.