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Max Talley's, When The Night Breathes Electric, features eighteen stories that range from the fantastical to crime fiction to haunted fables to science fiction. Tales of living couches and disembodied hands haunting medicine cabinets, to a future where technology-damaged people have territorial disputes with synthetic humans. From noir crime where the evildoers are not aware they are the criminals, to humorous takes on a has-been musician trying to strike it rich by selling a rock star's million-dollar guitar, and a woman dating someone to gain access to their water filter. Talley also provides psychological horror in a European village that gives visitors everything they desire, but at a steep price. These scenarios are inhabited by characters trying to navigate through a weird and often dangerous world. When The Night Breathes Electric collects Talley's best genre fiction from 2015 to the present.

"Max Talley returns with his signature brand of acerbic wit, taking on everything from fraught middle-aged relationships to beloved water filters (or both at the same time!). There is no one today writing about "reality" quite like this--and you're going to want to be sure you get a reality check from Talley before you lose all sense of perspective on how fucked things are...while still laughing to keep from crying."

-Genna Rivieccio, Editor-in-Chief of The Opiate

Sanity Clause

An Excerpt

by Max Talley


Barry Shipman waited on the corner slapping his gloved hands together and stamping his feet. The hood of the sweatshirt underneath his coat helped, but his nose went from numbness to feeling pain. Could someone get frostbite of the nose? He’d seen photos of Mount Everest hikers who’d lost toes or fingers on their frozen treks, but couldn’t remember any blackened noses.

He shivered as he stood on 27th Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan listening to the bell jingling in the distance. It served as a kind of clock or timer counting down the moments until he acted. The tinkling grounded him and reminded him why he had come. 

Christmas season didn’t strike Barry as the ideal time to murder someone. Though it was not a scenario he’d dwelt upon, having never killed anyone before. The Monday before Christmas retained happy memories for him. The spirit of goodwill, the sharing of niceties, and the promise of humanity putting aside their selfish pursuits for a moment—whether authentic or forced by a collective, commercial tidal wave. He felt those things too, but needed to make a moral exception this Christmas.

In a few days people would get manic with last-minute shopping. Not to mention the social tensions of pleasing family-members, of being thrown together with relatives both loved and those despised. If Barry had been given a choice when to kill, he would have picked after the holidays, during that bleak trough of early January when the next year arrived newly born and barely sentient. A dark, depressing time.

Barry planned to skip town before then. Unless something went inconceivably wrong, he’d be rolling south toward palm trees by dawn. He hated winter in the tri-state area. Most years, the conditions became intolerable around New Year’s. In December 2018, unfortunately, an Arctic air mass gripped the region by the family jewels early on and it had remained at record low temperatures ever since. 

“Excuse me,” said a grouchy pedestrian dodging around Barry’s stationary form. “Merry fucking Christmas.”

“Same to you,” Barry replied. He heard the sidewalk Santa’s jingling bell and again went over his plan, again imagined his escape to Florida. Last winter he traveled to Phoenix, Arizona—but that hadn’t proved warm enough....

"Max Talley is both satirist and fantasist. His stories are kaleidoscopic in their variety. He’s a literary acrobat with a wondrous bag of tricks. Give yourself over to a rising star in the short story form." 

Monte Schulz - Metropolis, Naughty


"The short story form has been written off by many as much ado about nothing. Max Talley's When the Nigth Breathes Electric should serve as the perfect rejoinder to this criticism, as every story collected here is as substantive as it is entertaining. These are short stories written right." 

Gar Anthony Haywood - In Things Unseen, Cemetery Road


“Max Talley's When The Night Breathes Electric takes you into a labyrinth of strange characters enmeshed in even stranger situations. Talley's word craft shines through in this collection, punctuated with a sampling of his own eclectic paintings.”  

Matthew Pallamary – The Small Dark Room of the Soul, Land Without Evil


Max Talley was born in New York City and lives in Santa Barbara. His writing has appeared in literary journals, including Vol.1 Brooklyn, Atticus Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Litro, and The Saturday Evening Post. He won the 2021 best fiction contest in Jerry Jazz Musician for “Celestial Vagabonds,” later nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Talley's first novel, Yesterday We Forget Tomorrow, was published in 2014, his curated anthology, Delirium Corridor, appeared in 2020, and his short story collection, My Secret Place, was published in 2022 by Main Street Rag Books.

Stories in

When the Night Breathes Electric


Clap Hands

In the Blue House

Forever Now

Three Months at Devorah

My Beloved Water Filter

Down in Chaotica

Destination Unknown

Confusion to Our Enemies

Axis of Distraction

I Don’t Live Today

Ever After 

Dinner Party Exit Strategy

Scraping the BucketPoisoned

The Devil is in the Details

Identity Liquid

Sanity Clause

Fallen Angels

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