February 8, 2010 / 7:11 PM / 8 years ago

Bausch taps into menace of U.S. home life for new book

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Following his award-winning war novel “Peace”, author Richard Bausch is back writing short stories, fixing his gaze again on small-town American home life. Only now, there’s more violence.

<p>Author Richard Bausch is shown in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters February 8, 2010. Bausch is back to writing short stories, fixing his gaze again on small-town American home life with his new collection "Something is Out There." REUTERS/Mark Weber/Handout</p>

Bausch, who has written eight short story collections and 11 novels over a 30-year career, has long focused on the quiet troubles of domestic America, but he says his new book, set for release on February 10, takes his work to menacing new heights.

In “Something Is Out There”, a collection of 11 short stories, one tale follows a naive kid running from a small-time drug deal gone wrong. In another, a young man’s crush on his older brother’s wife ends in a drunken and bloody fight.

“As I was writing these stories, I became interested in forms of menace, of crimes and things that happen around them,” Bausch, 64, told Reuters. “I remember thinking that this is an area I haven’t really explored that much.”

Unlike many of his characters, Bausch is humorous, relaxed, and has maintained a relatively calm life, he said.

“I don’t think any of (my fiction) comes from experience. Most of it is just dreaming it up,” he said. “Imagine a book about how happy we were and how wonderful it is. You wouldn’t want to read it. It would be the dullest thing on earth.”

A steady focus on American home life and relationships over the years has earned Bausch several literary awards.

The “Stories of Richard Bausch” released in 2003 won the prestigious PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, joining a list of literary powerhouses including John Updike and Saul Bellow.

Two years ago he released his last novel, “Peace”, an account of an American reconnaissance patrol in the Second World War based on his father’s experience as a soldier. It gained him a new, larger audience outside North America.

In a review for “Peace”, The Guardian newspaper described Bausch as “an extraordinary writer” who produces “taut, dark, funny, heartbreaking and mildly hypnotic prose.” The novel won the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize and may be made into a film, the author said.

Bausch, who was born in the military town of Fort Benning, Georgia, now lives and teaches in Memphis, Tennessee. His life might have worked out differently, he said, but bad grades kept him from joining a seminary when he was a teenager.

“I remember my mother telling me I hadn’t got in and the relief washing over me,” he said.

In his 20s, he spent a few years in the U.S. Air Force and dabbled in stand-up comedy. He did not get a story published until he was about 30 years-old because he just had not found his “sound,” he said.

Now he works his way alongside some of the greats of post-war American literature, and has no plans to stop. He added he is always writing, either conjuring up new stories or returning to old unfinished ones.

“I just want to keep writing stories, long and short,” he said.

Editing By Christine Kearney and Bob Tourtellotte

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