The Tragedy of Brady Sims, the new novel from well-known writer Ernest J. Gaines was a late edition to my lineup this year, so I did not expect to have my world moved when I finally picked it up and read it. It turns out I was right. While it is not a bad book (there are very few out there, or maybe my radar is just that good), it feels like a minor work, something that shouldn’t be seen to represent the author’s output. Gaines is most well known for his bestseller A Lesson Before Dying, which I don’t know much about besides it was adapted into a TV movie by Oprah. And this slim 114-page novel is his first published work of fiction since that book was put out in 1993, almost a quarter century ago. It was released this year to little fanfare, and after reading it I can see why. It begins with an intense scene of sudden violence, where a black man is coming out of a courthouse after being sentenced to death and is shot and killed by Brady Sims, a well known person in the town of Bayonne, which is where all of Gaines’ fiction takes place. The majority of the book takes place in a barbershop where the local population of elderly men reminisces about Sims, who was known to take extreme measure to keep local youth out of jail, and his strange relationship with Mapes, the local sheriff. I like the setup and it benefits from the book’s short length. It reminded me of Stephen King’s short story “It Grows on You”, where the remnants of a destroyed Castle Rock are seemingly stuck in a place out of time, who tell pointless stories to ignore the horrors around them. It is just too bad none of those stories are very interesting. The locals tell the stories as stories within the story, so they come off heavy handed, inauthentic and not very compelling. The book has a very good final few pages, but the bulk of this short novel never seems like anything very special.