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Paperback (5½x8½): $19.95, ISBN: 978-1-948692-32-8
Hardcover (5½x8½): $26.95, ISBN: 978-1-948692-94-6
Ebook: $9.99, ISBN: 978-1-948692-33-5
204 pp / Madville Publishing

Set in Cleveland, Ohio, from its earliest beginnings as a forested frontier to the urban blight of modern times, Mistakes by the Lake is a collection of ten thematically-linked stories spanning the many faces of the city’s history:

  • a motorman navigates his 1920’s back-and-forth trolley until he snaps;
  • a stockyards knocker encounters the Virgin Mary during the 1954 World Series;
  • a wannabe wrestles his unruly mind along the flammable 1960’s Cuyahoga River;
  • in a reinvention of Henry IV, a young man must either stick with his bumbling criminal crew or uncover legit ways to support his mother and transgender Gramps.


  • “The stories offer a glimpse of lives that we didn’t notice, or that we saw but chose to look away from…. [Petkash’s] compassion comes through in his sparkling prose and riveting imagery. You know that for once these people are seen.” —Jen McConnell, The Main Street Rag
  • “In Mistakes by the Lake, Brian Petkash writes, ‘I learned then, and I know now, that there is no insulation from tragedy.’ Part adventure narrative, part love letter to Cleveland, this collection uses history to illuminate and elevate trailblazers, troublemakers, and tinkerers. This book is a tribute to the American experience.” —Tasha Cotter, author of Astonishments
  • “With a tender and transportive love note to a city—with shades of Richard Powers’s feel for people and land, spiked by flashes of the odd experimentalism of underground poet d.a. levy—Brian Petkash has written a muscular, inventive, and engrossing novel in stories, each one set in a different Cleveland decade. From 1796 to 2013, we travel from wilderness to street car, from the day a steer escapes the stockyards to the awful day a star little leaguer disappears. Each chapter about this city in Ohio throbs with love, intensity, devotion, and creativity. Epic, ambitious, gorgeous, and deeply felt, all of the stories in Mistakes by the Lake add up to a book at least as old, important, and beautiful as the grand old city of Cleveland itself.” —Nathan Deuel, author of Friday Was the Bomb and frequent Los Angeles Times book critic
  • “Put simply, Brian Petkash is this era’s Sherwood Anderson. The ten stories that comprise Mistakes by the Lake do for Cleveland what Winesburg, Ohio did for Anderson’s fictional town. They present a cast of characters across historical time—characters beset by change, marital and familial difficulties, shattered dreams and loss. Often dark, the stories still manage one important infusion of light: a kind of momentary stay against despair. Call it a desperate assertion or call it an epiphany, but when the frustrated inventor and trolley operator, Oswald O’Malley, at the end of ‘The Last Ride’ says, “But for now, right now, this moment seemed enough,” we agree. These stories mark Petkash as a necessary writer for this moment in our national life. Move over, Mr. Anderson.” —George Drew, author of Drumming Armageddon
  • “Evidently, Brian Petkash was somebody’s big secret until now. I don’t know how they kept him from us. No one writes this good the first time out, do they? Well, secret no more, folks: this genie’s out of the bottle. Brian Petkash’s Mistakes by the Lake is a stunning literary achievement. The prose is luminous and compassionate, the themes are complex and resonant, the characters are riveting and heroic. You won’t soon forget them, and you won’t want to. They’ll haunt your dreams. This is not a book that you can put down until it’s through with you. Yes, it’s that good, and you’re going to thank me for telling you about Mistakes by the Lake. Go buy it now.” —John Dufresne, author of I Don’t Like Where This Is Going
  • “In this remarkable debut, Brian Petkash immerses his reader with textured prose that is as beautifully nuanced as it is brutally honest. The settings of these stories are authentically Cleveland, but the terrain is the full range of human emotion. From a trolley driver searching the tracks for purpose to a war veteran wounded by the loss of his wife, Petkash binds together a disparate cast of characters with threads of hope and humanity.  Mistakes by the Lake is a collection that resonates long after the read, and Petkash is an author to be watched.” —R. Dean Johnson, author of Californium
  • “Cleveland, in American history and minds, has never been the main attraction. Brian Petkash’s achievement is to save the city from its position of rarely used utility outfielder and lend beauty, urgency, and grit to centuries of playing in the minors. He makes us feel the acute and sepia-toned pain of what could have been. What we could have been.” —Stefan Kiesbye, author of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone and Berlingeles
  • “Brian Petkash is the Bard of Cleveland. He’s a perceptive teller of poignant tales that are both regional and universal. That’s a compelling combination.” —Tony Macklin, film critic and author of Palestra
  • “These are stories like I haven’t read before, of mostly busted people in tough spots who usually come to weird, bad ends, threaded through a couple of centuries. They’re dark, because that’s what is within the Midwest if you look at it closely enough, and they’re impressively researched and lived in. We honor others in strange ways and for strange reasons, Petkash writes. And sometimes we don’t honor them at all. I for one will remember these souls and this Cleveland for a long, long time.” —Ander Monson, author of The Gnome Stories
  • “The Cleveland depicted here is at once mythic and pedestrian. There’s the familiar stuff—the stockyards, the Cuyahoga, Lebron—but there’s also a werewolf (of sorts), a skywoman, and a remarkable Shakespearean duo known as Hal and Fal. Call it historical fiction if you must, but Petkash forges from the fire of a burning river a new view on the American city everyone loves to hate and hate on. Mistakes by the Lake is a love letter to Cleveland, and a fictional tour de force.” —Jeff Parker, author of Ovenman
  • Full of action, movement, tension and shocks. The world of the Cleveland stockyards and its denizens is brought to life with verve, skill and command.” —Vulpes Libris (on the novella, Mistakes by the Lake)


Message me your address and I’ll send you one of these beauties.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to Western Reserve Historical Society for permission to use “Seth Pease’s Map, 1796/Pillsbury, I.H., 1855.” Comments: “A plan of the city of Cleveland” reprint “Jan. 5th, 1855”.