Local author and Davenport native Michael McCarty, who will be a guest lecturer at Rock Island's Midwest Writing Center this Saturday, has spent more than a decade conducting interviews with some of the biggest names in fantasy and horror.

Thanks to the dozens of area writers who continue to flood us with their really short stories. We received roughly 120 pieces in this year's contest, and here present a dozen of the very best. Before we begin, though, an apology: To anybody who was confused about the contest rules, we screwed up.

Quad City Arts has issued the second volume of the literary journal Buffalo Carp. This publication makes a nice gift for the literature-lover on your holiday shopping list, with some wonderful pieces of poetry and prose.

There's no getting around it. Shades of Noir, the new film by Max Allan Collins and Phil Dingeldein, is a patchwork. "It's a bit of a Frankenstein monster," Collins conceded last week, "but the Frankenstein monster gets its job done.

Edited by Curtis C. Roseman and Elizabeth M. Roseman

252 pages

2004, University of Iowa Press

The new book Grand Excursions on the Upper Mississippi River should not be considered a lightweight souvenir for people wanting to remember the upcoming Grand Excursion celebration.

The number of entries in this year's River Cities' Reader short-fiction contest jumped to over 120, up more than 25 percent from last year. There was one significant rule change - the word limit was cut from 250 to 200 - but that didn't seem to affect the quality of entries.

Sean Leary, entertainment editor of the Rock Island Argus and Dispatch, has just released the second issue of the humor publication The Dingo. In the spirit of the work at hand, I offer my own Top 10 list (for the counting impaired), and some constructive criticism.

The River Cities' Reader's first-ever short-story contest generated a tremendous response, with 86 entries, including one from halfway around the world (Australia). Most of the stories came from right here in the Quad Cities, though.

Sean Leary's stated goal for The Dingo - the new humor magazine that he debuted last week - is to be the print equivalent of Saturday Night Live. (He has wisely specified the show in its early years.

The ambition of Buffalo Carp can be seen on its copyright page: "Buffalo Carp is a national literary magazine published by Quad City Arts." That's a tall order. While it's not difficult to attract entries from around the country, the challenge of a national focus - as opposed to showcasing local or regional writers - is drawing the quality necessary to make a splash in the literary community.

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