It wasn’t Michael Gerhard Martin’s stories in the collection Easiest If I Had a Gun that wooed me as much as it was his crisp, visceral writing. His narrative constructs are alluring and beg to be unpacked, analyzed, and savored. Without apparent ego or bias, he transcribes the thoughts, memories, and dialogue of his characters as they struggle to navigate the mundane obstacles associated with living as lower middle-class, white Americans. This theme—the white man’s struggle—is not new. Yet, Martin manages to bring to the subject a fresh voice and a macabre sense of social conscience.
At present, Martin, who received an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, is an adjunct professor of Rhetoric at Babson College in Massachusetts. He is evidently passionate about language, employing words and structuring sentences in order to produce subtle messages. His stories take place in various towns and neighborhoods in Pennsylvania that are filled with particular kinds of people: men and women and children suffocated by inherited traditions and conservative social rules. “The old saying is ‘write what you know,’ but I write WHO I know—my characters are always constructs of me melded with people I know intimately,” he told Damon McKinney of the JMWW blog. He pens haunting apparitions of these people who desire but cannot enact or accept change. And, they remain with the reader long after she has finished the book.