K. L. Cook's debut collection of linked stories spans three generations in the life of one West Texas family. Events both tender and tragic lead to a strange and lovely vision of a world stitched together in tenuous ways as the characters struggle to make sense of their lives amid the shifting boundaries of marriage, family, class and culture. A series of unusual incidents—a daughter's elopement, a sobering holiday trip, a vicious attack by the family dog, a lightning strike—provokes a mother of five to abandon her children. An oil rigger, inspired by sun-induced hallucinations, rescues his estranged wife, who doesn't appreciate his chivalry. In the wake of his father's and brother's deaths, a teenage boy finds a precarious solace working with his mother at a country-western bar. A cosmetics salesman schemes to buy Costa Rica and flirts dangerously with mobsters in Las Vegas. A woman, fleeing her fourth marriage, arrives at a complicated understanding of love and responsibility. Railroad worker and conman, grieving son and battered wife—these characters explore the limits of family fragility and resilience. Their stories—suggesting unlikely connections between comedy and pathos, cruelty and generosity—promise a hard-won dignity and hope.
"A deep and haunting book."
"In Cook's hands, the series of linked stories ... thrums with keen insight born of uncommon wisdom and unwavering compassion for his characters.... Cook's debut collection is a breathtakingly haunting and magical tapestry of human emotions."
On a manifest level, the tales chronicle the lives of three generations of a West Texas blue-collar family.... Last Call does, in fact, reflect a world of hard knocks—but hope fights hard for equal time. "
~Dallas Morning News
"A remarkably accomplished first collection.... A family's tragic trajectory viewed through the kaleidoscope of time in stories that make an immensely satisfying whole."
"K. L. Cook's Last Call captures the bittersweet dysfunction of the everyday like a Bob Wills tune, sweetness shining in the rhythm of Cook's carefully juxtaposed stories."
"Cook follows the sad, contorted trajectory of one extended West Texas family, but he bounces delicately from first to third, female to male, good intentions to ruin. The emotional depth laces the discrete voices together."
~Southwest Book Views
"Like the characters and their lives, Cook's writing is ruthless and tender, complex and focused, sad as well as funny.... From honky-tonk to lyricism, music lives in these stories...and so does wisdom and love tough enough to get kicked but keep getting back up. K. L. Cook's Last Call is a close look at a big-hearted, blundering Texas family. Move over, McMurtry."
~San Antonio Express-News
"Cook's debut short story cycle deftly chronicles the often fractious and brutal lives of the Tates of West Texas.... Although the stories are generally harsh and unforgiving, Cook transforms these attributes into a kind of grace."
"In spare, unornamented prose, Cook writes about spare, unornamented people. These are stories about boozers, petty gamblers, con artists, and perpetual victims set in honky-tonks, dirt farms, and trailer parks, a world where a good night means making it home with somebody next to you—perhaps even your own spouse—without rolling the car on its roof along the way."
"Cook understands the intersection between coincidence and insight, and he demonstrates a flair for picking out those random and nonsensical moments ... that, when paired with a narrator's retrospect, create meaning.... Each story is relevant enough to the collection's central themes that an unspoken back story lingers, and a history is built that mimics that of the family it portrays: fragmented and drifting, yet tenuously anchored to a larger whole."