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Fleeing her family, a woman finds unexpected solace in an empty hotel. A therapist struggling to make sense of a shattering professional failure becomes convinced someone is watching his every move. A coach’s disciplinary tactic doesn’t so much backfire as it implodes his players’ lives.

Inhabiting a (mostly) midwestern landscape, Alex Pickett’s characters specialize in breaking rules. Believing themselves to be good people, they try to bend their situations to fit their needs or fulfill their desires. The results are rarely completely disastrous or successful, but are tinged with a humor that rides comfortably alongside embarrassment, regret, and longing.

Pickett’s tensely modulated world hums with the vitality of its characters, balancing restraint and impulse. With wry wisdom and rich prose, he leads us to imagine what an individual should do versus what they want to do—and in the process reminds us that it is achingly hard to live up to expectations.



“It’s not often I devour an entire book of stories in one night, but I couldn’t get enough of these. Camera Lake is the rare collection that is both hilarious and heartfelt, both literary and approachable. The reason for this is simple: Pickett truly loves his characters—their quirks, their loneliness, their smiles—and this makes all the difference. In a world full of depressing headlines, these stories made me happy. This is stellar stuff. A debut worth calling your friends about!”

—M. O. Walsh, New York Times bestselling author of My Sunshine Away and The Big Door Prize

“Camera Lake is such a powerful read. Pickett writes relevant, risk-tinged fiction that’s deft with humor and heart. These stories are fresh in form and content—and they will grip you with their fully imagined characters, these flawed Americans who have made the beds they lie in with open eyes.”

—Alyson Hagy, author of Scribe


“If the Coen Brothers had adapted a collection of Raymond Carver stories into a funny and disquieting film, I imagine it would feel a lot like reading Alex Pickett’s Camera Lake. This is a book you see in your head as much as you read it. The characters instantly spring off the page as they attempt to navigate myriad disappointments, tragedies, mistakes, and even the occasional minor triumph. I haven’t been able to get them out of my mind.”

—Steven Hyden, author of the bestselling Twilight Of The Gods and There Was Nothing You Could Do

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