Above All Men: A Novel

Years from now, America is slowly collapsing. Crops are drying up and oil is running out. People flee cities for the countryside, worsening the drought and opening the land to crime. Amid this decay and strife, war veteran David Parrish fights to keep his family and farm together. However, the murder of a local child opens old wounds, forcing him to confront his own nature on a hunt through dust storms and crumbling towns for the killer.

• Paperback 5″ x 8″
• List price: $15 Print, $4.99 ebook
• ISBN: 978-0988201323
• Release: March 2014
• Publisher: MG Press
• Language: English


“Shonkwiler takes the world on his own terms, and wrestles it to the ground.”
Tom Lutz, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Shonkwiler has taken an iconic landscape and filtered it through near-collapse and fear, then through loyalty and love.”
Susan Straight, National Book Award finalist

“Sparse and poetic, the words within these pages are as sharp as a corn knife.”
Frank Bill, author of Donnybrook and Crimes in Southern Indiana

“Shonkwiler captures a uniquely American way of life that feels both timeless and contemporary at the same time. The struggles his men wrestle with are no different; they are as ancient as honor and death, and as timely as the economics of our day. A rare, stark, and beautiful achievement.”
Paula Bomer, author of Nine Months

“Shonkwiler creates a very distinctive, memorable story. We practically breathe in the dust that rises up out of nowhere, beautiful and terrifying.”
Jennifer Messner, Books, Personally

Above All Men is a book you will not find yourself capable of walking away from. It grabs you by the throat and slowly starts to choke all of the air out of you ... before you reach the end of the first page. It’s a tale of survival as much as it is one of destruction, and Shonkwiler pulls it off effortlessly.”
Lori Hettler, The Next Best Book Club

“The straightforward prose is peppered with well-earned poetry, and pulls out moments of profound complexity through its simplicity. An entirely rewarding read.”
Jacob Budenz, JMWW Journal

“Shonkwiler’s words are brilliantly poetic — quiet creepers that seem stark and undecorated on the surface, but the lines hum with underlying emotion that, while not set effusively in the words, is the very cement of the foundation beneath them.”
Leah Angstman, Los Angeles Review of Books

Above All Men does not suffer fools gladly. It is narrated in concise language representative of the protagonist’s black-or-white moral compass, in a bleak but restless Midwest that is as much a character as any person. Think pre-apocalyptic Atticus Finch.”
Lydia Davis, Two-Legged Animal

“Shonkwiler lands somewhere between a soberer Hemingway, a more linear Faulkner, a heavy rotation of Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads, a couple’a shots of Bulleit, an infected snakebite, and Cormac McCarthy.”
Leah Angstman, Dashboard Citizen

“Despite the bleakness, you want to roadtrip to this town with a camera. Shonkwiler’s description promises starkly, painfully beautiful shots. His imagery is that arresting. We can hope his future is fraught with books as honed as this one.”
Ann Beman, The Museum of Americana

“It is hard not to admire Above All Men. It is stark, compelling, and impossible to ignore. Shonkwiler’s prose rises and falls in poetic fashion; he has an excellent grasp of rhythm.”
Kenrick Vezina, Foreword Reviews

Above All Men’s writing is so strong and clear that its power cannot be denied. This book is a strong contender for the best book I’ve read this year. Shonkwiler is an author to watch.”
Sandie Kirkland, Booksie’s Blog

“Shonkwiler writes sparsely, but deeply — someone who knows that water, land, and sky can transform a life at each encounter.”
Jean Bartlett, Pacifica Tribune

“You’ll find yourself immersed in one of the most beautifully and artfully crafted tales about courage and strength and the power of resilience. Shonkwiler is an author of immense talent. Above All Men resides on my list of top reads of my lifetime.”
L. M. Stull, author of A Thirty-Something Girl

“Well-written and possibly prophetic, Above All Men kept me reading to find out how much one man can endure.”
Tammy McCartney, San Francisco Book Review

“Shonkwiler renders the degraded deprivation of the protagonist’s unflagging resilience in artful, distinctively crafted language. Before I knew it, I was through the book, feeling unusually satisfied.”
Zack Kopp, The Examiner

“No other book has even come close to blowing me away like Above All Men did. It has incredible intensity, keeping the reader on tenterhooks. It does all of the things you want it to and some of the things you don’t. That’s what makes it so powerful.”
Lori Hettler, Chicago Literati

Above All Men is rural science fiction written with literary panache and a rare confidence. It weaves a compelling narrative together with tightly written prose and little touches that make the realities of the post-collapse society profoundly acute. Highly recommended. 10 out of 10.”
Karl Wolff, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP)

Above All Men is engrossing and frightening in its potential realities. A nod toward Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, but with a futuristic twist and a murder mystery combined. This book kept me up nights, and I imagine it will do the same for you.”
Paula Cary, Poet Hound

“Shonkwiler has masterful use of stark, raw style and form. The cadence of his words mirrors the landscape of his characters so intimately that the language and the story become inseparable. Above All Men will leave you uneasy, will leave you with questions, and most importantly, will leave you feeling alive.”
Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked

“The prose is stark, sparse, and plainspokenly honest. Above All Men takes you to dark places, and it would be wise to pay attention.”
David S. Atkinson, Sundog Lit

“Shonkwiler’s streamlined approach to writing dialogue creates characters’ conversations that bleed into their movements and actions in a way that feels more like verse than prose. The way Shonkwiler duels his protagonist’s two personalities against one another is brilliant, and watching this dichotomy unfold is nothing short of a crowning achievement. This guy’s writing is alive.”
Schuler Benson, The Lit Pub

“Rarely does a writer achieve heights that seem almost superhuman, that stun me because they’re just so damn good. Shonkwiler does that, and does it with vicious restraint. Above All Men has my highest recommendation.”
Taylor Brown, author of In the Season of Blood & Gold

Above All Men kicked in my teeth and floored me pretty good. A lot of writers draw comparisons to Cormac McCarthy, but few really bring those goods to the table. Shonkwiler does, and he does it with such restraint that the writing just quivers on the page like a flexed muscle.”
Taylor Brown, Revolution John

“Lean, no-BS storytelling is how Shonkwiler rolls. He uses the same style of simple, unadorned prose, the same technique of not using quotation marks to indicate dialogue, and the same rural setting, yet does what McCarthy never could do. Shonkwiler makes (miserably) living, (barely) breathing, emotionally vital (if suffering) people that I can invest in. And he does it in fewer words.”
Richard Derus, Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

“You can’t ask for better storytelling. There is so much to enjoy about this novel: the sparse, direct prose, being told a story by someone who held narrative most important, characters as realized as anything you’d want, that just could not have been better crafted. I simply cannot imagine a better result for a debut.”
Sheldon Lee Compton, Revolution John

“Like pretty much everyone else who’s read him, Eric Shonkwiler is my favorite author I’ve read recently. Above All Men is so good, and his short fiction hits so hard. The guy is truly built to write.”
Schuler Benson, author of The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide

Above All Men’s got incredibly spare prose—short sentences, terse dialogue—but if you treat this like a fast-paced book, you will miss out. Shonkwiler has an extremely rare gift for economy of prose, and he can move more plot in three short sentences than most writers can in a full paragraph.”
Karen Brissette, reader for Barnes & Noble Discover Program

Above All Men is so well built, I mean brick-cigar-house built. A fully realized not-too-distant future, a fully realized set of characters. Most of the time, with a debut, a reader can point to things that blow the cover on it being a first book. Not this one. Not a single flaw.”
Sheldon Lee Compton, Bent Country

“This incredibly gorgeous, haunting, poetic near-future tale that blends the richness of McCarthy with the sparseness of Hemingway with the poetry of Faulkner with a voice and precision that is uniquely Shonkwiler’s, is hands-down my favorite book of 2014. I cannot even tell you how it blew me away and resonates with me still. If you buy only one book this year, make it this one.”
Leah Angstman, The Spark

Above All Men is accomplished, revelatory, and inspired, with relatability so often lost in works set in an apocalyptic landscape. Its sparseness is one of its strongest aspects, without a sentence wasted. Shonkwiler uses a cinematic narration style, presenting everything without commentary, letting all the horror, truth, and beauty show through by itself.”
William Wright, Chicago Book Review

“When I first started reading Above All Men back in January of 2014, I remember being only a handful of pages in and already referring to it as my favorite book of the year. Here I am, seventy-three books and twelve months later, and nothing I’ve read since has even come close.”
Lori Hettler, The Spark

“Shonkwiler’s subtle humor, along with his grotesque finesse, allow for a sense of unsettling enjoyment”
Laurel Nusbaumer, Tempo Magazine

Reviews & Other Media

Above All Men Book Tour: West Coast, February-April 2014

Above All Men Book Tour: East Coast, September-October 2014

Moon Up, Past Full: Novellas & Stories

As Faulkner’s voice portrayed the South and Breece D’J Pancake’s represented Appalachia, Eric Shonkwiler captures the Midwest, with this collection of novellas and short stories that peels back the edges of rural existence to expose the heart of it. Through parental neglect, rebellious sons and daughters, drug-addled war veterans, backwoods zombies, injured firemen, car thieves, witch doctors, and Navajo ghosts, Shonkwiler brings you a disregarded world you can no longer ignore—one thriving with the mundane, the bruised, the unheard. Here is the voice of the rest of us, spoken only the way firsthand experience, rooted deep in overworked soil, can say it.

• Paperback 5″ x 8″
• List price: $11.99 Print, $4.99 ebook
• ISBN: 978-0692528884
• Release: October 2015
• Publisher: Alternating Current Press
• Language: English


“Shonkwiler’s stories capture the rural experience rarely heard—the quiet, dangerous voices of the desperate, struggling for honor among thieves. A stark and timely slice of Americana gothic that both razes and rebuilds.”
Paula Bomer, author of Nine Months and Inside Madeleine

“Sometimes it’s bad decisions; other times it’s just trying to stamp out an existence the only way a person knows how, but the stories within are enough to make most men cry. Shonkwiler has an eye for detail and a lot of heart that he places in each and every sentence to make his words leap from the page and stay with you long after they’ve been read.”
Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook

“God bless the hardscrabble elegance of Eric Shonkwiler’s prose. These stories turn strangers into familiar faces. Battered souls and stoic hearts. Revenge, redemption, mercy. It’s all here for the asking, like an emotional fire sale. Moon Up, Past Full wrings every last emotion out of your heart, but still leaves it full. Quite the magic trick. Comparisons don’t come easy with Shonkwiler’s work. Few others measure up.”
Anthony Breznican, author of Brutal Youth

“Eric Shonkwiler is the new voice of the American Heartland. The stories in Moon Up, Past Full touch the scorched heart of the Midwest, and there is something deeply American in the telling, a directness that honors the cowhands and combat vets, single mothers and fatherless daughters, who grit their teeth and lean into those old hard winds.”
Taylor Brown, author or In the Season of Blood & Gold and Fallen Land

“Eric Shonkwiler is the new voice of the American Heartland. The stories in Moon Up, Past Full touch the scorched heart of the Midwest, and there is something deeply American in the telling, a directness that honors the cowhands and combat vets, single mothers and fatherless daughters, who grit their teeth and lean into those old hard winds.”
Charles Dodd White, author of A Shelter of Others and Sinners of Sanction County

“Shonkwiler’s stories are pleasantly dusty, country. Full as a tick. Well-written wordy breezes swirling into a blinding windstorm of memorable characters, families, women and men, animals, trucks, guns, bottles of bourbon. This collection is alive and sad and violent, heartbreaking and lonely—steadied by Shonkwiler’s strong hand. He has both the guts and extraordinary talent to keep his reader reading.”
Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Every Kiss a War

“An eclectic, atmospheric collection bound together with barbed-wire nostalgia. Moon Up, Past Full is quietly poignant and devilishly risky, all while mining the depths of human emotions and delivering an array of gems in intimate, carefully framed moments. Another powerhouse work of startling grace from Eric Shonkwiler.”
Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked

“Eric Shonkwiler’s prose occupies an impossible space between the timeless and the ephemeral, and the apparent ease with which he crafts worlds and characters makes classifying his style all the more difficult. You and I are in every one of these stories, whether we want to be or not, and our fates are in Shonkwiler’s hands.”
Schuler Benson, author of The Poor Man’s Guide to an Affordable, Painless Suicide

Moon Up, Past Full is an engaging read. The pages turn.”
Kyle Minor, author of Praying Drunk and In the Devil’s Territory

“Midwestern voices are hot in fiction right now, and Eric Shonkwiler stands out among them. Moon Up is a collection of short fiction that has the normal and the unfortunate juxtaposed with the supernatural (zombies, witch doctors, ghosts); if you feel small-town life deep in your soul, this is a collection to check out.”
Susie Rodarme, Book Riot

“Eric Shonkwiler is quickly making his way up my list of all-time favorite authors. For those who may have worried whether he’d fall victim to a sophomore slump, Shonkwiler’s second release is just as sparse and beautifully written. He continues to astound and amaze me with the way he lifts the Midwest up and off the page. The stories are tender and patient but powerful. They are sneaky and wily. The characters hurt and ache, but it’s below the surface. And they ignore the warning signs until it’s too late. They struggle and yet, in Shonkwiler’s hands, they seem so safe. They are speaking directly to you. They demand your forgiveness. They play on your humanity. They got a shit deal and they played it the best way they could. They are all running from something. And they are all running toward something else. And in the end, we are left wondering whether the past they are leaving behind would have been better than the future they are barreling headfirst into.”
Lori Hettler, The Next Best Book Club

Reviews & Other Media

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8th Street Power & Light: A Novel

In an abandoned Midwestern city, there’s one last vestige of order and days gone by: 8th Street Power & Light. Part government, gang, and power company, 8th Street tasks Samuel Parrish with keeping the city clear of meth and bootleg liquor. Most nights, Samuel tracks down criminals, while other nights find him navigating hazier avenues: in between drinking and fighting, he’s falling for his best friend’s girl. But when Samuel rousts a well-connected dealer, he uncovers a secret that threatens to put the city back in the dark.

• Paperback 5″ x 8″
• List price: $15 Print, $4.99 ebook
• ISBN: 978-1-944850-03-6
• Release: October 2016
• Publisher: MG Press
• Language: English


“Shonkwiler’s imagination wouldn’t pass any field sobriety tests. This is deranged and absurd stuff, but it’s also oddly tender. Buy a copy and dig the madness!”
Joshua Mohr, author of All This Life, Some Things That Meant the World to Me, and Termite Parade

“I was privileged to hear Eric Shonkwiler read from 8th Street Power & Light recently, and hot damn, can he ever write. The world in Shonkwiler’s imagination is dark, electric, gritty. Thoroughly original work.”
Kathy Fish, author of Rift and Together We Can Bury It

8th Street Power & Light is a terrific science fiction noir novel, featuring a protagonist as damaged as the almost-recognizable America he's enduring. A first-rate read.”
Scott Phillips, author of Hop Alley, Cottonwood, and The Ice Harvest

“A dystopian (Mid)western, Eric Shonkwiler’s 8th Street Power & Light is a furious read, pages soaked in the lapsed whiskey of the near-future. The prose is a deadeye’s; the pace is relentless. A hell of a lot of fun.”
Nicholas Mainieri, author of The Infinite

“In this novel, Shonkwiler continues his exploration of a post-apocalyptic west with a character sprung from his acclaimed first novel, Above All Men. Little Samuel Parrish is all grown up, the bleak echoes of the cataclysmic war settled into the core of his character. Samuel, a ‘heel’ who serves as skeptical enforcer/detective, walks a fine line between violence and compassion as he seeks to uncover the nexus of corruption in a city resurrected by electricity and shadowy forces of power. Here, evil hides behind even the brightest of lights, and sometimes only a slick slice of a knife will reveal the truth. Fans of Cormac McCarthy and hard-boiled noir will appreciate Shonkwiler’s style, in which spare syntax and tight dialogue rule the day. A star-crossed love affair, unfolded with nuanced writing, brings a softer pulse to the proceedings, and the descriptions of a city lit up at night—a wondrous rarity in this landscape—beat with the rhythm of poetry.”
Britta Coleman, author of Potter Springs

“ Along with (in very different ways) Cormac McCarthy and C. J. Box, Shonkwiler is proving the Western isn't dead. Here, he cross-pollinates the genre with noir and post-apocalyptic fiction to create a darkly human little beast with jaws wide open.”
Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses, Windeye, and ALA-RUSA award winner Last Days

“Shonkwiler’s world is made of rust. In this relentless novel, no life is safe, no story too far-fetched and no bone unbroken. There is a reckoning coming. You will need a tetanus shot.”
Andrew F. Sullivan, author of Waste and All We Want Is Everything

“In this atmospheric and entertaining tale, Eric Shonkwiler smartly puts the Western story’s need for justice, and the Noir crime’s hard-boiled means to achieve this, inside a post-apoca- lyptic landscape, to ask questions about community, society, and democracy that are highly relevant for our times. How commu- nities must care for their poorest and most vulnerable mem- bers, and at the same time deal with corruption and crime in an effective manner. This novel is also a riveting tale of love, friendship, compassion, and violence, and would make Raymond Chandler and Cormac McCarthy proud.”
Berit Ellingsen, author of Not Dark Yet

“Shonkwiler’s 8th Street Power & Light is a fast-paced literary thriller set in a dystopian future where big business and govern- ment have merged. This insightful book reverberates with our country’s current challenges. The tightly woven plot features protagonist Samuel, a flawed character who pursues justice even as he’s sleeping with his friend’s girl. The twists and turns will leave you breathless, but it’s Shonkwiler’s restraint with lan- guage and dialogue that’ll keep you coming back for more.”
Aline Ohanesian, author of Orhan’s Inheritance

“Shonkwiler’s second novel is every bit as bare and measured as his first, with prose even leaner, darker, and more discomforting. His vision of a near-future Midwest cityscape is at once terrifying and innovative, where Orwellian methodology clashes with slavery and survival on acute levels, in a succinct yet poetic style that makes Hemingway seem florid. Fewer authors have said so much with so little so well; Shonkwiler’s knack for laconic perfection is unrivaled, and the Midwest has found its augural voice in this talented newcomer. 8th Street secures Shonkwiler’s place in the ranks of bold and unapologetic mavericks to watch.”
Leah Angstman, Editor-in-Chief of Alternating Current Press