Monday, May 12, 2014

Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace

  I first discovered Ed Gorman's work back in the early 1990s. Crime writer Andrew Vachss was my absolute favorite author at the time and I was tracking down his short stories in books like COLD BLOOD edited by Richard Chizmar, DARK AT HEART, edited by Joe and Karen Lansdale, and DARK CRIMES, edited by, well, Ed Gorman. But see, all of these books also had stories by Gorman. I think it was the story THE LONG SILENCE AFTER that made me a fan and that led to me picking up Gorman's collection PRISONERS AND OTHER STORIES and one of my absolute favorite private eye novels, THE NIGHT REMEMBERS.
   Over the years I've read a lot of Gorman's other books including a lot of his Westerns, most recently the collection A DISGRACE TO THE BADGE AND OTHERS.
   This weekend though I've been back to the stuff that attracted me to Ed Gorman's work to begin with, crime and dark suspense stories, because there's a brand new collection out called SCREAM QUEEN AND OTHER TALES OF MENACE.  The very first story in the book, ANGIE, was a sharp gut punch of Noir that was dark, dark, dark. I read the last page and put the book down and said, "Damn."
   Here's one of the things I love about Gorman's work. It's also something that I admire and envy as a writer, and that's his ability to get real people on the page and to do it in an economical way. Give an author a whole novel to tell you about a character and most of them can do it, but to do it in a short story and do it consistently is bloody impressive. Gorman has the knack. He's not writing about characters. He's writing about people, be they private eyes, cowboys, call girls, or what have you. They seem real and they will stay with you after you've closed the book.
   The titular story, SCREAM QUEEN is an excellent example of this. Yes it's a tale with some menace, but it's also a story about growing up and that often painful period between high school and reality where you lose friends and try to establish yourself as a functioning adult. This story has a couple of heartbreaking moments, and only because, for that brief span of reading, Gorman has made me believe in those people and care what happens about them.  Probably didn't hurt that I found some stuff to identify with in the protagonist either.
   I'm not going to review all the stories, because that would take too long and because the book is out now and I wanted to get the word out about how good it is, and because I'm not going to tear through all the tales. Or I'm going to try not to. I want to save a few for when I need a shot of something well written, dark, and memorable. Highly recommended.


Ed Gorman said...

Thanks for the great review, Charles. I hopped on a city bus today and read out loud to all the passengers. Seriously--thanks.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

You're very welcome. It's a great book.