The fifteen stories of George Garrett’s Empty Bed Blues (his eighth book-length collection) are vintage Garrett—no two alike—with each moving, one way and another, in new and daring directions. His stories are deeply concerned with the old verities of love and death and filled with the joys and woes of characters who come to life and command our attention.
Diversity is the key word for Garrett’s short fiction. He works in every known form and invents a few himself. In “A Story Goes with It,” Garrett fondly remembers an old friend while retelling a story the man once told him. Most of it is probably not accurate, as Garrett is quick to admit, but the mixture of fact with fiction makes for an entertaining read. His stories turn like the sharp curves of a mountain road, abruptly changing from a fond trip down memory lane to a sleazy reporter’s quest along the backroads for the ultimate crime story in “Pornographers.”He tops off his collection with “A Short History of the Civil War,” a series of poems written by two participants: one a Confederate, the other a Yankee.
In the marriage of fact and fiction, of comedy and pathos, and the music of many voices, the stories of Empty Bed Blues reconfirm the judgment of novelist and story writer Richard Bausch, who said in 1998: “There is no writer on the American scene with a more versatile, more eclectic, or more restless talent than George Garrett.”