Ben Stroud
"The title story in Ben Stroud's Byzantium is not only the best in the book, it's the best story by a new writer I've read in years."—Alan Cheuse, NPR, All Things Considered
A Kansas City Star Top Book of the Year

About the Book

Winner of the Story Prize Spotlight Award and the Bakeless Prize for Fiction, an imaginative debut that ranges from Havana to Berlin
Ancient cities and fallen empires come to life in this masterful collection. In the Byzantine court, a noble with a crippled hand is called upon to ensure a holy man poses no threat to the throne. On an island in Lake Michigan, a religious community crumbles after an ardent convert digs a little too deep. And the black detective Jackson Hieronymus Burke rises to fame and falls from favor in two stories that recount his origins in Havana and the height of his success in Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany. Ben Stroud’s historical reimaginings twist together with contemporary stories to reveal startling truths about human nature across the centuries. In his able hands, Byzantium makes us believe these are accounts we haven’t heard yet. As the chronicler of Burke’s exploits muses, “After all, where does history exist, except in our imagination? Does that make it any less true?”

Additional Reviews

"[Stroud] evinces a sharp yet sympathetic eye for human failure. In Byzantium, Stroud extends this same eye to personal and social subjects across millennia, telling stories that range from the violent political intrigue of the titular city to the half-hearted adultery committed by a Ph.D. student in modern-day Berlin."Harper's Magazine
"Fans of David Mitchell's The Ten Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet will delight in Stroud's sensitive approach to historical fiction. . . . Without a doubt, Byzantium signals the arrival of an incredible talent."The Daily Beast
"[Byzantium] is proof, if ever it were needed, that the short story can hold its own alongside the novel. . . . Stroud's stylistic prowess and panoramic range can be jaw-dropping. . . . Stroud's fecund imagination and his ability to tell tales smack of tremendous writerly promise."Star Tribune
"Stroud can switch hit with ease, going deep with detailed and understated Steven Millhauser pastiches—or just hitting away and moving us with tales of youth, love and the everyday. . . . Dazzling inventive takes on the short story mark this Bakeless Prize-winning collection from a very promising young writer."Shelf Awareness for Readers
"Stroud's imaginative story collection . . . [leap-frogs] from Berlin to Havana to ancient cities and fallen empires."Chicago Tribune
"[Stroud] sticks close to the sensory details that are crucial to bringing fiction to life in a reader's mind. . . . Byzantium, however, offers both flavor and sustenance, and will leave readers eager to learn where Stroud's vivid historical imagination will carry him next."The Dallas Morning News
"Stroud brings those forgotten corners of history to life with exuberance and wit. . . . In each of his historical tales, Stroud's concern is man's descent into barbarianism, the thin promise of civilization. He is able to dig through the well-worn tropes of 19th-century Americana to bring us stories as new and surprising as our own world."—Kansas City Star
"[Byzantium] is a delight. . . . Among his inspirations, Stroud names the short story writer Jim Shepard, but it's not hard to find traces of Poe, Dostoevski, and Calvino as well. . . . Here's looking forward to whatever this writer does next."—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Stroud seems less interested in history per se than in telling stories of intrigue and adventure. . . . What follows is a thoroughly enjoyable journey."San Francisco Chronicle
"Stroud follows in the footsteps of the Jim Shepards of the writing world—dexterous magicians who parkour from one time, setting, style, place, or tone to another."Publishers Weekly, "Best Summer Books 2013"
"Stroud's command over both contemporary and historical narratives is reminiscent of Jim Shepard's, though his sure and robust voice proves him to be a deeply compelling and original new storyteller."Booklist
"Stroud writes with straightforward grace reminiscent of Hemingway or Steinbeck. . . . [Byzantium] establishes [Stroud] as an author with a terrific future."New York Journal of Books
"Extraordinary. . . . It is, at times, mind-numbing what Stroud can do with the form: the power he can extract from it, the way he can transport with it, and how he can establish worlds both near and far, in both place and time, with fortitude that rivals any novel"Bustle
"Stroud writes convincingly in any time or mode, juggling heavily plotted stories of historical fiction that are cinematic in their sense of adventure and more traditional literary stories admirable for their restraint and close examination of intrapersonal conflicts. . . . Stroud can, indeed, do anything. This is an exciting and essential collection, unlike anything in recent memory, and a decidedly impressive debut."Publishers Weekly
"Part of the complete pleasure and brilliance in Byzantium is the consistent level of adventurousness in the choices of settings and characters that Stroud makes. . . . Byzantium is simply chockfull of excitement. . . . [Byzantium is] a fantastic debut collection of stories from a deeply feeling and purposeful writer."Heavy Feather Review
"[In Byzantium], a wide range of settings, deeply introspective characters, and dramatic plot reveal the powerful skills of this young writer."Foreword Reviews
"[Byzantium displays] a remarkable range, especially for a first collection. Stroud is equally at ease working the large canvas and the small, the historical idiom and the contemporary, the detective story and the faux memoir. . . . Reading Byzantium, you get the electric sense that anything could happen."Fiction Writers Review
"Noir, literary, historical: Stroud's work can be called all of these things, yet he is the rare short story writer for whom labels feel imprecise. . . . Stroud's collection as a whole deserves praise for proving out a core tenet of good fiction, genre be damned: that the flaring and fizzling of little hopes is an experience bound by no single era, person, or place."Propeller
"[W]hat a pleasure [Byzantium] is. . . . Stroud journeys with an earnestness and without irony. Reading these stories, you'll get the sense Stroud found each one essential, and you'll feel the same way."—The Outlet: the blog of Electric Literature
"Expansive is the word to use when describing Ben Stroud's first story collection. . . . Stroud has creative ideas to spare, and his matter-of-fact style of writing is ideal for executing them, delivering detailed sequences of travel, historical artifacts, and redemptive characters in kind."—The Coffin Factory
"Ben Stroud clearly has a thirst for adventure and intrigue, but also for imperfections and consequences. . . . His protagonists, noble folk and scumbags in equal measure, are frequently amazed by whichever society they've plunged into—and by the world's capacity to derail their careful road maps to prosperity. . . . It's wild, unexpected, and quite readable."Michigan Alumnus
"Hugely refreshing. . . . [Byzantium] is a terrific book from start to finish."—PopMatters

"Byzantium is both a collection of exciting stories, and of extraordinary journeys. Ben Stroud is a smart, versatile, sure-handed tour guide, whether he’s taking the reader to Germany, Havana, or Constantinople. In each story he builds a vivid, seamless world, and brings it memorably to life. This is an astonishing, transporting book."—Caitlin Horrocks, author of This Is Not Your City
“Let us praise the full-blooded sweep and majesty of Stroud’s imagination. Let us celebrate a writer of great bravery and artistry and deep feeling. . . . Stroud’s Calvino-like deconstruction of narrative . . . turns the unlikely ingredients into a marvel of storytelling. . . . Ben Stroud is a magician.”—Randall Kenan, Bakeless Prize Judge
“Ben Stroud is a tremendous talent. The ten exquisitely wrought tales in Byzantium stretch through the ages and across the globe. From ancient Constantinople, to Havana in the height of the slave trade, to modern-day Wiesbaden, each story unfolds in unexpected ways, with great humor and skill, and then, when you least expect it, strikes at your heart.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief