Why call the collection OLD SCHOOL? Bette Davis, in her later years, famously noted that “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” (And no, you young punks, if you don’t know, I’m not gonna tell you who she was. You got your smartphones and your damn Wikipedia. Look her up.) In these stories, some of the protaganists may not quite be old yet, but ain’t none of them young anymore. They’re well past the solipsism of youth, that grandiose narcissim that lets those in their teens and twenties imagine the world as a stage devoted to their glories. Every character in this collection knows that life isn’t a stage, it’s a ring. And you’d better learn to take a punch, because life is the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. You might land a shot here and there, but you are gonna get your ass beat and, in the end, you’re going down for the count. Life is however-many-billions and 0, and each of us is just one more digit on the wrong end of that equation.
Still not sold? Here’s what some writer-type folk have to say.
“Whip smart and razor sharp – these stories are fast, mean, and true to the very bone. Dan O’Shea can write.”
“Dan O’Shea is a madman and “Old School” is a collection of stories marked by twisted, violent beauty, the best fiction by an ex-boxer since FX Toole’s “Rope Burns.” I’m buying several so that he doesn’t have to get back into the ring.”
“Dan O’Shea’s writing hits hard. The characters in OLD SCHOOL are mad, bad, and dangerous to know. But they are also filled with genuine longing, desperation, and sorrow, making them resonate off the page. No matter how far they’ve fallen, there’s always something more to lose.”
“OLD SCHOOL is a literary oh-shit moment, the kind of writing that demands you sit up and take notice. In story after story, O’Shea disappears into his characters, so vividly do they come to life — and so brutally do they kill. The stories in OLD SCHOOL ain’t the kind to feature sexy, badass twentysomethings, who — for all their bitching — could fit their worries and belongings both into a backpack and still leave room for a sixer of PBR. OLD SCHOOL is full of folks with jobs, with debt, with families, with regret; folks with shit to lose, and heights from which to fall. That makes them real. That makes them desperate. OLD SCHOOL is tough and funny and honest and brutal — and on occasion, all at once. In short, it’s not to be missed.”
“Dan O’Shea is a master of characters filled with grit and fascinating depth. Old School grabs you by the gut with the first story and roars to the end. I couldn’t stop turning that pages and I’ll never think of Girl Scout cookies in the same way ever again.”
“Dan O’Shea’s short stories are proof that not only can an old dog learn new tricks, but that he’ll rip off your fiddly bits if you give him a dirty look. This collection — which features stolen organs, Shakespeare-as-shamus, and the secret Scotch of Ernest F**king Shackleton — demonstrates O’Shea’s ability to a pen a keenly cruel crime-flavored yarn.”
“Dan O’Shea’s OLD SCHOOL gets under your skin like a meth itch. From the heart-breaking (“Shackleton’s Hootch,” “Absalom,” and “Sheepshank”) to the ball-breaking (“Hilary’s Scars,” “Thin Mints”) and everything in-between, this outstanding collection brings it. Like the dinner buffet at the Sizzler around 4 p.m., this selection of stories offers a range of choices and leaves you feeling tired, beaten, and well satisfied. In a world of shelves filled with lesser talent, reading O’Shea’s work is both a comfort and a concern – like that quick moment just after you’ve soiled yourself.”