Letting Loose the Hounds

Most of the characters in Brady Udall’s robust debut collection, Letting Loose the Hounds, have been stung by personal tragedy, usually involving dead or unfaithful wives. They’re not so much survivors as endurers who drink, hunt, play basketball, and purge themselves through manly rituals. But what prevents these mostly Arizona-set tales from becoming Marlboro ads with tragic undercurrents is the knowing ambivalence Udall brings to his men. ”Am I the fix-it man who plays basketball,” asks a sometime student in ”Junk Court,” ”…or the guy who likes poetry written by women who kill themselves?” Udall also offers surprises, such as a story about a group-home supervisor who finds the family he longs for in his ”developmentally challenged” charges. These are Western nuggets well worth cracking. A-

Letting Loose the Hounds
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