Pictures of the Shark: Stories by Thomas H. McNeely




Short Stories / Southern Fiction / Coming of Age

Publisher: Texas Review Press

Date of Publication: July 12, 2022

Number of Pages: 205 pages 

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A sudden snowfall in Houston reveals family secrets. A trip to Universal Studios to snap a picture of the shark from Jaws becomes a battle of wills between father and son. A midnight séance and the ghost of Janis Joplin conjure the mysteries of sex. A young boy’s pilgrimage to see Elvis Presley becomes a moment of transformation. A young woman discovers the responsibilities of talent and freedom.

Pictures of the Shark, by Houston native and Dobie Paisano award-winning author Thomas H. McNeely, traces a young man’s coming of age and falling apart. From the rough and tumble of Houston’s early seventies East End to the post-punk Texas bohemia of late eighties Austin, this novel in stories examines what happens when childhood trauma haunts adult lives.

Stories that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

With so many great books yet to read, I’m not usually one to re-read many. However, Pictures of the Shark: Stories may prove to be an exception. Frankly, I sat down and read this book in one sitting, and I was captivated from the start. But as I raced through, page after page, I am certain I missed things. I really feel the need to go back and do it again, slowly.

Buddy Turner’s life is presented to the reader in a unique fashion in this collection of stories. We see him first as a young boy, but then he appears as a teen, only to reappear later on as a child again. Each story is self-contained, so I didn’t feel confused by the back and forth even as I watched the breakdown of a marriage and the impact this wreaked on the young Buddy and its manifestation in his older self as he displayed more and more of his father’s characteristics. The non-linear storytelling may not be to everyone’s taste.

The stories reveal personal dramas of the kinds happening around (or to) each of us. I’m reminded that you never know what’s going on at the house next door and don’t have any idea what other people may have endured to get to the moment you encounter them. I was emotional reading about Buddy’s life; those feelings continue to surface. These stories hit me surprisingly hard, and their memory seems to want to linger. As a mother of sons, I hope my impact on them was positive, strengthening, and affirming, but I can’t help but wonder if I couldn’t have done better myself.

I highly recommend PICTURES OF THE SHARK: STORIES to readers of literary fiction.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.


 “McNeely’s brilliant stories are filled with delicious menace and heartbreaking hope.”

– Pamela Painter, author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers and Fabrications: New and Selected Stories

“In these gorgeously crafted interlinked stories, Thomas McNeely demonstrates once again an uncanny ability to illuminate the darkest emotional corners of his characters with a vision that is as tender and compassionate as it is unflinching.”

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs

“With masterful prose, McNeely draws you down into emotional depths where your ambivalence and confusion show you at your most profoundly human. These stories hook you quickly and deeply and keep you even after they end.

– C.W. Smith, author of Steplings, Buffalo Nickel, and Understanding Women


Thomas H. McNeely is an Eastside Houston native. He has published short stories and nonfiction in The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, Ploughshares, and many other magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories and Algonquin Books’ Best of the South. His stories have been shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Award anthologies. He has received National Endowment for the Arts, Wallace Stegner, and MacDowell Colony fellowships for his fiction. His first book, Ghost Horse, won the Gival Press Novel Award and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize in Writing. He currently teaches in the Stanford Online Writing Studio and at Emerson College, Boston.





Read the Kirkus Review




2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark


2 winners: autographed copy of Pictures of the Shark

+ editorial critique of an excerpt (up to 20 pages) from an unpublished short story or novel.

(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 7/15/2022)

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or visit the blogs directly:

7/5/22ExcerptShelf Life Blog
7/5/22BONUS PromoHall Ways Blog
7/6/22ReviewBoys’ Mom Reads
7/6/22BONUS PromoLSBBT Blog
7/7/22Guest PostAll the Ups and Downs
7/9/22ExcerptStoreyBook Reviews
7/10/22PlaylistForgotten Winds
7/11/22ReviewJennie Reads
7/12/22Author InterviewRox Burkey Blog
7/13/22ReviewReading by Moonlight
7/14/22ReviewThe Book’s Delight

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Filed under Book Reviews, Contemporary fiction, Fiction, Historical fiction, Literary Fiction

5 responses to “Pictures of the Shark: Stories by Thomas H. McNeely

  1. Wow! What an insightful review. A collection that makes you think. And think some more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. thmcneely

    Thank you so much, Ms. Siddall, for this very thoughtful and insightful review. I did want readers to think about what is going on in their neighbors’ lives and the inner lives of their children. Best, Tom McNeely

  3. Pingback: TRP July Roundup – TRP Blog

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