Jen Conley’s short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Crime Factory, Trouble in the Heartland: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen and many others. She has contributed to the Los Angeles Review of Books and is one of editors of Shotgun Honey. Her story collection, “Cannibals: Stories from the Edge of the Pine Barrens” is available now. She lives in New Jersey.
Author Website: https://www.jenconley.net/
Here you are in New Jersey, but not Soprano-land New Jersey, this is central Jersey, the edge of the Pine Barrens, where the everydayness of life is interrupted by devils and angels, murderers and saviors, cheaters and music fans. Bobby Kovacki adores his married girlfriend but is compelled to search for Janine, his hard-partying former classmate who has gone missing. Metalhead Marty, odd-looking and shy, has the chance of a lifetime when he joins the band Dark Beast. Tyrell Colton uses a two-foot-long pipe to avenge himself from a bully. Eleanor Webb, eighty-four, deals with her low blood pressure and a violent neighbor. In the title story, scrappy soccer player, Jade, veers down a path in the woods and stumbles upon a trio of terrifying drifters. And in several different tales, police officer Andrea Vogel, widowed and quietly brokenhearted, attempts to rescue the elderly, help an old boyfriend out, and connect with a young rape victim. Brutal and fierce, the characters in these linked stories search for meaning in their lives but more importantly, they search for the humanity in themselves. “Jen Conley has the rare ability to imbue her stories with an emotional heft that is both subtle and powerful within the darkness. Amongst the other writers with that similar (and extremely rare) skill set, none do it as well as she does.” —Todd Robinson, author of The Hard Bounce “Far from the concrete wasteland of the Turnpike lies the dark heart of the Garden State, and Cannibals carves it out still beating. Jen Conley writes with the soul and poetry of Springsteen, pure blue collar Jersey Gothic. These stories take a big bite out of you.” —Thomas Pluck, author of Blade of Dishonor