Avery Colt Is A Snake, A Thief, A Liar
"Ron Austin writes sentences so sharp you could cut meat with them, characters so real you swear you're fighting with them. Avery Colt may be a snake, a thief and a liar, but the teller of his stories is a master."
-Rion Amilcar Scott, author of Insurrections and The World Doesn't Require You
“Ron A. Austin writes with wit, with compassion, and with heart about the city of St. Louis. It is a vibrant world full of characters who are connected to one another the way folks in small towns are connected—by an intricate and shared past."
-Mary Troy, author of Swimming on Highway N and The Alibi Café and Other Stories
“Avery Colt is a Snake, A Thief, A Liar is at once hilarious and heartbreaking, a coming of age story about the weight of inheriting cumulative losses and the skills necessary to survive them. Ron Austin is a major new voice, and in this book he brings to life an unforgettable community. ”
–Danielle Valore Evans author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
“It spins and sings and then stops you in your tracks with its piercing understanding of the human heart. Avery Colt is a knock-out debut.”
–John Dalton, author of the Inverted Forest
Book Awards & Nominations
"It has been a pleasure and honor to read Avery Colt Is A Snake, A Thief, A Liar. It brings so much of St. Louis we rarely see in literature, to light. I especially love the juxtaposition of the country and the urban/city in the stories; it feels so true and real. The dialogue is pitch perfect, especially the vernacular. Ron Austin has a gift for lyric prose, with moments of poetry that leap right off the page. Beautiful work!”
–John Keene author of Counternarratives
“I’m crying right now. Because Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar is doing the difficult work of being compassionate from within the guts of the joyful and painful mess we inherit. Avery Colt tells us that 'shared pain is a crux of love.' And this book is my cousins, aunties, uncles, grandparents, parents, siblings, and friends. I am thankful to Ron Austin for this blessing, for his graciousness, and for his storytelling that embodies our folks’ traditions and innovations. Amen.”
–Steven Dunn author of Potted Meat
Austin’s semi-autobiographical, linked story collection follows the misadventures of Avery Colt as he struggles to survive in North St. Louis alongside his family.
Learning the best way to slaughter a goat, rebuilding his family’s corner market, and reckoning the weight of a revolver are a few of the challenges Avery faces.
As he matures through each page, Avery takes control of his circumstances and attempts dangerous feats of alchemy. By confronting his own fears and limitations, he seeks to transform cruelty into compassion, rind into fruit, despair into hope.
Charged with urgency and emotion, Austin’s prose faithfully renders a community determined to overcome crisis with strength, dark humor, and plenty of heart.
“Ron Austin’s stories twist like a snake, outwit like a thief and mastermind like a liar. Pulled into one family’s life by language at once restrained and erupting, we learn the cadence and complexity of enduring or failing to endure. We observe and then engage, are outraged and implicated, do right and do dirt, howl with laughter and then—like Avery—sleeve away tears.”
–Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, author of Collateral Damage: A Triptych
Goodreads Book Reviews
Every story in this collection is equally strong. The prose is crisp, the narrative is compelling, the characters are well-defined. Austin’s writing is tinged with a dark humor that, though much of the book is from a young boy’s perspective, handles complicated and often grim realities with the perfect balance of honesty and sensitivity. No complaints.
The stories of Avery are as much a microcosmic look into North St. Louis, of the grieving, survival, and continued perseverance of the area. The book redefines tenderness and triumph, forces us to stay with Avery no matter how uncomfortable the experience, and we stick around because there’s an origin story of sorts happening. We end on a series of clicks and we won’t see what it comes to, but there’s a hopeful note in the continued action—knowing that the click is still echoing as something in Avery shifts each time.
First: amazing title and cover art. I guess you're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but that's what I did, and it worked. Avery Colt is an introspective, sort of nerdy kid trying to meet the conflicting expectations of the adults around him, a task that seems basically impossible. His stories are woven together with the stories of his family and neighbors to create a vibrant portrait of a St. Louis neighborhood.
The author's writing style is rich in detail without feeling over-written. I wondered if the order of chapters was changed at some point, because there are some references to an event that had already been described, in a way that felt like something was out of order.
The ending took me completely by surprise and revealed new layers of meaning. The questions I'm left with are: What happens when others stake claim to what was always yours? Does the identity of those others affect the meaning of their claim? I can't wait to read what Ron Austin writes next.
Great voice, makes me a believer in the novel-in-stories again. And what an ambiguous final story and chilling final paragraph—leaves the whole book open to readers so it can continue operating on our minds and hearts.
I love how Austin often deploys a rigid syntactic parallelism, the simplicity of which is counterbalanced by the wildness of myth and hyperbole-infused imaginative flights. I'll be recommending this book to everyone.
-Joe Sacksteder, author of Make/Shift
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“I’d backslid a little—who am I kidding? I’d backslid a lot—in my belief that fiction could still rouse us, but with his stellar debut, Avery Colt is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar, Ron Austin has set me back on the path.
Each inspired page hums with the vitality of lives too little seen by most readers and rollicks with the texture and musicality of Austin’s prose. I don’t know who I admire more: Avery Colt for being funnier than Flavor Flav, twice as ornery as Holden Caulfield, and endearing as Esperanza Cordero, or Ron Austin for having created him.
Either way, Avery is a central character built for the ages, and Ron Austin’s someone I’ll turn to again and again to restore my faith in fiction’s power to grab us by the lapels and shake us awake.”
–Tom Williams, author of Among the Wild Mullattos