Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Short Story Wedneday:"Others of His Kind" James Sallis, PHOENIX NOIR

 What are some of the authors you go to first in an anthology? Or is it the length of the story that draws you in? Or perhaps the title? Or its placement in the collection?
With me, if I see the name James Sallis, I will go to his story early on. 

This story had an odd feel about it. Slightly unfinished, like it was part of something bigger, which it turned out to be. In lesser hands, this might have made the story suffer more than it did. But because Sallis is such a master at creating characters, situations, locations, descriptions, it only felt incomplete in a few spots.

A cop asks a woman if she might be willing to speak to an abused girl the department has found. At first she refuses. Her back story turns out to be one of abuse too, and then escape and then years of living alone in a mall and then the typical social services trauma. She eventually goes to see the girl. 

We don't know why he came to her, nor why the few things she said to the abused woman would count for much. Where are they going at the story's end?What makes the story are the details of her abduction and her time as a twelve-year old living in the mall. And the writing, which is terrific.

But because he has made his characters real to us, we don't mind too much. And I will probably look for the novella this became. Because these characters are compelling and that's the trick. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple

Jerry House 

George Kelley


Todd Mason said...

You may remember that I'm a Sallis fan over the'd probably enjoy his early sf and fantasy stories, as well. Then again, I still haven't read his first collection, titled with typical wit A FEW LAST WORDS (1970), though I have read some of the stories in it. And still need to read his latter-day novels.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love his Lew Griffin series.

Margot Kinberg said...

I really like James Sallis, Patti, and I don't think he gets the attention he ought to (perhaps that's just my opinion). I'm glad to see this one here; I have to confess I've not read this particular one (yet). Something new for me from him!

George said...

My go-to writer in mystery anthologies is Lawrence Block. Excellent short storiess! And, he's a pretty good editor, too!

Jeff Meyerson said...

I love Sallis and have read most of his books, at least. When it comes to short stories, George is write aan anthologist.

When I read an anthology, it depends. Are all the stories similar length, or are some quite short and others very long? In that case, I almost always start with the short ones first. I do usually go for the authors I know first, and Sallis would definitely be one of them.

I'm still reading the Pronzini short short collection, and have added Amy Bloom, COME TO ME (1993) and another new Edward D> Hoch collection from Crippen & Landru, CONSTANT HEARSES, with the collected stories about Sir Gideon Parrot (rhymes with "Poirot") and Revolutionary War participant Alexander Swift.

Frankly, a couple of Bloom's stories really creeped me out. Her first, however, was very good. "Love is Not a Pie" was in THE BEST AMERICAN STORIES 1991. It starts at a young woman's mother's funeral, where she is just about deciding to call of her forthcoming wedding, continues with the arrival of her mother's former lover, then go es to flashbacks set the summer she was 11 (and her younger sister was 8), when she discovered her mother's relationship (though she didn't totally understand it them), as well as her father's part in it. Good story.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Bloom is good. Say what you want about literary writers, short stories by them are usually superior to genre writers who are trying to fit a murder in too often.

Todd Mason said...

I hate it when sports-fiction writers try to shoehorn in a murder during the playoff climax!

Marketing considerations do plague some stories by some writers, alas. And, of course, pro-forma habits can out.

Todd Mason said...

As for go-to writers...way too many not to produce a long list of them. And it can depend on the kind of anthology or magazine/issue I'm currently holding in front of me...themed issues/anthologies definitely slant that.

TracyK said...

I don't believe I have read anything by Sallis, even though I have several of his books on my shelves, including a spy thriller, Death Will Have Your Eyes, that I had forgotten about.