James Sallis remains a master of the noir genre

book review

By Derryll White

Sallis, James (2011). The killer is dying.

“You were dead, you slept the big sleep, you weren’t bothered by things like that, oil and water was the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the badness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the badness now. Way more than Rusty Regan was part of it.” –Raymond Chandler

James Sallis brings to light the poetry of the dark night, offers it to the reader in a series of cascading dark events. There are three big losers here – that is, the ‘loser’ of contemporary slang with friends making ‘L’ signs on their foreheads. No, these men are all dealing with a dark loss, one that many of us have experienced.

The cop deals with the loss of his wife as he pursues an unidentified killer. The killer comes to the recognition that he is dying. A young boy is abandoned by his parents and creates a life for himself.

James Sallis is the absolute master of the noir novel. It lets the reader wander through these lifetimes, wandering about what will happen to their own life in the end. Is there a meaning to our existence? What? Is life just a complicated set of streets and hallways that we walk through? In all this articulated darkness, there is light.

Sallis takes the reader on paths, memories, dreams that would be better left alone. It’s a strong book from a man growing as a major writer, but it may not be for you, so beware. I am glad to have read it.

“Hard to imagine what life is like for someone from the outside.”


Excerpts from the novel:

AUTONOMY – Change was the law. We continued the life we ​​had. When he thought about it, Jimmie realized the legacy his parents had unwittingly left him. Weaving his way between the cracks of his mother’s strangeness and his father’s resignation, he understood early on that it was up to him to map out the boundaries and furnish the rooms of a life he could live in.

COLLECTION – Four thousand dolls. No matter why, where did we find four thousand dolls?

Not many specialty shops like his, the young man from Mesa had said, but a few. He could close the store tomorrow, in fact, and thrive on mail order. There was a large network of collectors g=always buying and selling. Trade too – a lot of that. Newsletters. Local and national conventions and the like, lots of informal get-togethers. Websites, many of them with forums.

PEOPLE – Every human interaction, even the most banal, is an economic exchange, he thinks: everyone wants something. And it still amazes him how angry people are. You always see it in their eyes, in the low tones of their voices, in the way they walk through doors or down hallways. Many of them are like jars, filled forever.

Derryll White once wrote books, but now chooses to read and write about them. When he’s not reading, he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.

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