All eight of the stories in Reno native Mark Maynard's debut collection, Grind, are about his home town. As he tells us in the prologue: "This town will wear you down from the outside until all that remains is dust." In "Jackpot," a shy, homeless man wins millions at a slot machine that spoke to him ("Feed me, you dirty bum"); it affects his life in a tragic way. Other stories feature three young girls sunbathing on a building roof, watching a desert plane race go horribly wrong; a locomotive rushing toward a retired railway worker with dementia; and a young mother continuing to store her breast milk in her freezer after the early death of her child.
In one of the best stories, "Trading Up," a softhearted pawn shop owner, "proud that he had kept Reno's secrets all these years," does what he can for his "little city." The final story, "Penned," is an interesting look at prisoners who help exercise horses and what it means to them.
In Grind, Maynard reveals a world the Nevada tourism board would rather you didn't see, doing up Reno's sun and heat, the brothels, the truck stops along Interstate 80, the snow bums in the mountains and the big dreams, hopes and needs of its people in a dark, understated manner. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher