The short stories of Linda Mannheim are a recent discovery and I absolutely love them. They seem to operate as snapshots of lives in transit, under strain, often requiring a crazed resourcefulness to make it to the next scene, even. She writes in what I’d describe as a very hard-boiled fashion; her sentences contain flint. She’s big on intrigue, very good at leaving a scrap of the emerging story on the table, daring the reader to pick it up. Mannheim’s lean plotting and taut dialogue suggest she would actually make a very good crime writer, and ‘Noir’ toys with many of the genre’s tropes with a knowing grace.
Laura, a young reporter in Miami, becomes entangled in a shadowy political mystery when Miguel appears in her office looking for friends he fears have been murdered by an El Salvadorian death squad. ‘He had owl eyes so deep and ringed with dark, he looked like bad memories and brutal worries were at the foot of his bed every night.’
It’s nothing less than ingenious how Mannheim’s plotting so slyly mirrors the genre it references throughout. Laura’s filmmaker boyfriend “Sam’s big project at school was a film that mimicked the soul of these stories but brought you a beat away from them, a knowing and updated version of noir.” A feat that this remarkable story achieves, too. (GK)
Published in This Way to Departures, Influx press, 2019
I first met Linda through another extraordinary writer – Gerson Nason, with whom I had attended the great John Petherbridge’s City Lit writing group. I have read many of Linda’s stories since, and never a weak one. Linda brings searing precision and empathetic passion, and always takes us somewhere new. This comes from her collection for Influx about Washington Heights, a part of NYC few tourists would visit but which Linda knows intimately.
From Above Sugar Hill, Influx Press, 2014; available online at The Learned Pig
This is another short story that I have published. In 2014 Influx released Above Sugar Hill, one of the best short story collections I’ve ever read, regardless of whether I edited it or not! Mannheim’s writing wastes no words and hits you exactly where it you want to be hit by a story. ‘Dropping’ is something else though, I tell you. It is the story of Squire, a paratrooper in the army, his former life in New York and how 9/11, those bodies dropping from the burning building affected his life. Even writing about it now gives me goosebumps and makes my eyes moist. It is extraordinarily well written and with a pathos, similar to the way Okojie writes, that gives you all sides of the character, allowing you to sympathise and understand someone who you may initially be turned off by, say, if they are a gung-ho solider. The rest of the collection centres on the lives of those living in and around Washington Heights in Manhattan, but this is the only story that leaves those bounds. It’s a total masterpiece.
From Above Sugar Hill, Influx Press 2014