Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Charlie the Barber, Joe Lansdale

 



"Charlie the Barber," Joe Lansdale

"Charlie the Barber" is collected in Alive in Shape and Color, the second of Lawrence Block's three anthologies based on famous art work. (Pictured above). This story starts out light-hearted with Charlie enjoying cutting hair, working with his daughter as the only father-daughter barbershop he knows, thinking about his wife and how it was love at first sight for them. He likes his customers, knows how to cut their hair, all is right with the world.

But things begin to deteriorate when his electric clippers give out and he has to go get a new pair stored in a dark closet in the back of the shop. This closet is a place of terror for him because he is reminded both of the closeness and darkness of his captivity in Japan during the war. He manages to find the clippers and is able to squelch his rising PTSD.

Until two young men enter the shop just before closing. At first they are just verbally abusive, but it turns into a robbery and his daughter and one customer get pushed around. I won't tell you the ending in case you want to read it. Charlie does the best he can to live with his terrible experiences although  it is often evoked by things in his daily life. Another fine story from Joe Lansdale.

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

TracyK 

George Kelley

11 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

I really need to read some of Lansdale's work, Patti. I'll confess, I just haven't yet. Thanks for the reminder.

Jeff Meyerson said...

Joe is so good. He can make you almost literally fall on the floor with laughter and also go very dark indeed.

I liked the first Antonya Nelson collection of stories I read quite a bit, so I got the only other one the library had, FAMILY TERRORISTS: A Novella and Seven Stories. But I really disliked the first two stories so much that I almost returned the book. It got better after that, and I am now up to the title novella, about a couple who got married 40 years earlier, then got divorced 6 years ago but are now remarrying. It is told from the perspective of the youngest daughter (who is 26), on the way to Montana, where the wedding is being held.

DEADLY ANNIVERSARIES, the anthology edited by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini for the 75th Anniversary of the Mystery Writers of America, is a good, solid book of stories by good writers, like the two editors, Margaret Maron, Lee Child, etc. But so far there is not one story that made me say "Wow! That was a great story." I liked S. J. Rozan's "Chin Yong-Yun Sets the Date," as she has turned PI Lydia Chin's mother into a series character herself, and a very sly one. Muller's "April 13" has Sharon McCone revisiting an unsolved missing persons case, and solving it, at least to her own satisfaction. I'm glad there will be a new McCone novel this year.

George said...

You can't go wrong with a Joe Lansdale story.

Todd Mason said...

Though if you're going to read a Lansdale novel for the first time, don't choose from THE DRIVE-IN sequence of three, nor his first, ACT OF LOVE. Just about everything else from him at book length is better (and impressive to brilliant), from early to recent. And the short fiction averages even better.

Has Muller yet a better novel than TROPHIES AND DEAD THINGS? Permanent fandom, after that one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read quite a few of his novels and like all of them, esp THE BOTTOMS.

Todd Mason said...

Early novels such as THE MAGIC WAGON and DEAD IN THE WEST are more representative of his best fiction, I'd say, than the cited books to Read Later, by me. And THE BOTTOMS is among his best.

TracyK said...

I do need to read something by Joe Lansdale. I hear so many good things about his writing. I have SAVAGE SEASON and I think my husband still has his copy of SUNSET AND SAWDUST. Oh, and I also have BUBBA HO-TEP on my Kindle.

I found my copy of I BRING SORROW and other Tales of Transgression, and pulled it out to read "A Kid Like Billy" again (because it was the earlier story that featured the sheriff in your story in BULLETS AND OTHER HURTING THINGS). You were right, "A Kid Like Billy" was much grimmer, and sad. And a very good story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Tracy.

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