NP author releases book of short stories
North Platte native Shad Olson released his book “Tales from the Red Rooster Cafe” this week.
He has been writing short fiction and political essays for much of his life. Olson produced work that has garnered prestigious awards in broadcast journalism, including the Edward R. Murrow Award, Emmy Awards and a national Emmy nomination for best documentary.
“Even in the 25 years that I’ve worked in radio and television, fiction writing was for me not only a very satisfying outlet for a style and quality of prose that is completely worthless in journalism, but also an outlet to say things that are often much more difficult to say in a news context,” Olson said. “I have long found that in many ways it is much easier to tell the naked and unpopular and unvarnished truth about the world in fiction than it is in journalism.”
Olson has had a love of language since growing up in North Platte.
“There’s still something delicious and satisfying in finding the perfect word for a passage of descriptive narration or in crafting a sentence that flows beautifully in the mind or on the tongue,” Olson said. “Those things will never change.”
His work in broadcast journalism included stints as main news anchor and investigative reporter at two television stations in South Dakota from 1999 to 2016.
In this book, Olson looks at a plethora of subjects and presents them in 26 short stories of fiction based upon his own convictions about current issues.
“I write stories that often happen in the simplest of settings, but that give me incredible room to explore the mind and the motivations of characters who are often conflicted about their lives and their desires and how to find the lives they really want, while dealing with the pressures of society and an increasingly controlled societal framework,” Olson said. “The human heart and mind are always the richest backdrop for viewing the world.”
His stories deal with topics such as abortion and the value of the human soul, social media and other issues.
“We’re really watching a very energetic battle for the minds and hearts of people and for the destiny of humanity in a time when virtually every concept is up for grabs,” Olson said.
Six of the stories are set in or make stops at a roadside diner called the Red Rooster Cafe.
“It becomes sort of a touchstone for all the small-town cafes and coffee shops and gossip hubs that litter the American landscape,” Olson said. “A few more stories make cross-reference to characters or events at the diner.”
Olson’s story “The Last Prefect” is included in the book and concerns the 2016 election, and what Olson says was the media’s manipulation of the facts.
“This story deals with the lengths that the media and social media traveled in their attempt to distort the truth of the race in their obvious investment in trying to get Hillary Clinton into the White House,” Olson said. “It’s written in hindsight, 40 years in the future, by an aging Mark Zuckerberg who is contemplating the world that he has created and shaped with social media and the ultimate outcome of those forces on society itself.”
He said the story is very futuristic and a bit dystopic, but “I like to think that Ray Bradbury would enjoy reading that story, even if ‘Lord Zucker’ and ‘Lady Hilda Klarton’ would not.”
“I’ve written over a hundred pieces of short fiction and had about a dozen or so published, either regionally or nationally,” Olson said. “Having 26 of my favorites collected into a single volume for the first time is gratifying.”
Through fiction, Olson said he has more freedom to deal directly with issues he is passionate about.
“It’s satisfying for me to write about those things without limits and work them into something that can also be experienced as literary art and social commentary at the same time,” Olson said.
The book is available on Amazon.com for $14.99.