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Fresh stories

Courtesy of the alternative press

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Decades after their countercultural beginnings, alternative weeklies are assailed by many of the same complaints lodged at mainstream daily newspapers: Too stodgy, too establishment, too predictably liberal, too profit-driven. But as this book shows, alt-weeklies still publish many stories the nation's corporate dailies ignore or gloss over, without condescending to readers.

The 22 stories in this collection exemplify what's best about alternative papers: An adventurous nature that isn't afraid of offending and/or entertaining readers. Certainly you might be able to find more provocative stories among the nation's alt-weeklies. You might even find better-written ones as well. But these stories go beyond the "who-what-when-where" to explore "why?" with entertaining and provoking results.

In "Evil Eyes" from the Houston Press, Glenna Whitley examines the career of a rarity in the criminal world -- a black serial killer -- and why he'll most certainly kill again upon his imminent release from prison. A story from Creative Loafing-Atlanta's Mara Shalhoup asks, just "what's so weird about UFOs, cloning and immortality?" Writer John Dougherty in the Phoenix New Times describes the horrifying world of young girls and teenage boys born into an Arizona colony of fundamentalists Mormons. The publication of "Stalking the Bogeyman" in Denver, Colo.-based Westword resulted in police attention directed not at the story's subject but at writer David Holthouse. Holthouse documented the rage from being molested as a child and recounted for Denver readers his plot to kill his abuser. Not a story among this collection was developed from the stale focus-group journalism that too often shapes what's found in the pages of corporate dailies. At worst, some stories run too long, and some selections seem predictable, such as a story that documents a writer trying to pass himself off as a woman. But for readers searching for offbeat stories about the oddballs of society -- ultimate fighters, prison executioners, upscale call girls, teenaged rapists or happily impotent men -- this collection offers examples of well-done storytelling.

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