Bookcover: Last Known Position

Last Known Position

vol. 7: Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction

James Mathews — author. 
  • Winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, 2008
  • \"The Fifth Week\" story selected by Foreword Magazine for its online book club, 2009
Subject: Fiction

November, 2008






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About Mathews's Last Known Position

Most of the nine stories in Last Known Position were written upon James Mathews’ return from combat deployment to the Middle East with the D.C. Air National Guard. Life under fire provided the author with both dramatic events and a heightened sense of observation, allowing him to suggest the stress of combat as the driving factor behind extreme yet believable characterization and action. Military experiences and settings cause certain human elements and truisms to emerge more profoundly and dramatically.

These stories portray desperate characters driven to make desperate choices. Always on the edge of a dark and unpleasant reality, Mathews’ characters survive by embracing fantasy, humor, violence, and sometimes redemption. Each story bears its own brand of hopeless quirkiness. Four teenagers on an army base steal a grenade and are stalked by a parade horse. A drifter returns home to rob the grandparents who raised him. A national guardsman faces a homicidal superior officer in Iraq on the eve of war. An elderly man worries that his wife’s new house guests are unrepentant cannibals.

Always tense, sometimes ridiculous, and never dull, Last Known Position brings the reader to places unknown before and unforgettable after.

“Hemingway boxed, Mailer stabbed people at parties, and Jim Mathews drops bombs. These stories are warrior-lit at its absolute best—my ears are still ringing!” –—Jack McEnany, coauthor of Go Fast, Be Good, Have Fun

Last Known Position distinguishes itself because every story made me care and care quickly. Perhaps most impressive, though, is this writer’s authority, his willingness to hang a horse five hundred feet above the ground or place cannibals in his characters’ basement, bold moves that always pay off. And beyond it all, suffusing the danger, is a welcome humor that doesn’t come at its characters’ expense or the world’s. I read these stories eagerly, resenting the time I had to be away from them, happy when I was able to come back. I predict great success for James Mathews.” —Tom Franklin, judge and author of Poachers: Stories

About the Author

JAMES MATHEWS was born in Maryland and grew up on a variety of Army bases. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, he graduated from the University of Maryland and received an M.A. in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. He has worked in and around Washington, D.C., writing speeches and congressional testimony. His short fiction has been published in The Florida Review, The Greensboro Review, Carolina Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, and many other journals. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife, Diana, and their three children.

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