Udall's collection of short stories has also been on my nightstand for the past week or so. I've read them more casually than Percy for no other reason than they're less demanding on my nervous system. I don't really like suspense or horror in general and I suppose it says a lot about Percy that I'm willing to stay with his stories.
Udall is more fun. They are dark and the characters are definitely from the underbelly of our society. Some are even from the underbelly of society's underbelly. They're light and fluid enough to read before bed and I've read two or three in a single sitting.
I found the Ballad of the Ball and Chain the most relevant to some of my current storytelling challenges. I'm working on a story about a woman trying to help her boyfriend that's having a mental breakdown that I've written in the third person with my authorial stance from the woman's perspective. Ballad of the Ball and Chain is in first person from the woman who is dealing with a mentally ill boyfriend. Our stories are quite different other than that, but just reading his use of detail and other elements fired some cylinders for me and inspired several pages of notes about my own story's possibilities.
I liked all of the stories in the collection. He's imaginative and playful and though his characters encounter serious situations, the pathos is more comic than tragic. He allows them to laugh at themselves. Which is a winning consolation that doesn't entirely make up for the lack of redemption Udall deprives them of, but it does make things rich and honest and more complete.
I look forward to reading more Udall. I have a novel of his on my shelves, but it's not going to replace Letting Loose the Hounds as I'm committed to reading short stories for now.