June 17, 2011

Blue World

See what I mean?

I’ve been re-reading Robert McCammon’s Blue World. It collects twelve short stories and a lengthy novella for which the collection is named. It’s not even close to compiling all his short works, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, representing the amazing breadth of his fiction. Sure, there’s some horror standards here and a couple of straightforward terror tales, but McCammon’s ability to write engaging introspection and tap into our shared human experience elevates even his most trite plots.

However, the true standouts are when he abandons familiar horror territory and finds his own path.

“Nightcrawlers” opens in rural Alabama during a raging thunderstorm. A Vietnam Vet stops at a roadside diner for a few moments of shelter and a cup of coffee to keep him awake. Staying awake is very important. Bad things happen when he falls asleep—terrible and unbelievable things.

“Chico” is a sad tale of a special needs child’s quiet revenge against his mother’s boyfriend, the latest in a string of abusers.

“Night Calls The Green Falcon” is an adventure story broken into ten chapters, each with a daring cliffhanger. Years ago, Cray Flint was an all-star athlete recruited by the Hollywood serials to play a masked avenger named The Green Falcon. Now, he’s a nobody, a has-been who lives in a flophouse. His only friend is the young girl next door, a runaway who prostitutes herself to feed her drug addiction. When he witnesses her murder, he knows no one else will care about her death. Cray does the only thing he can think of—he dons his faded costume and sets out into the heart of the crime-ridden city to find her killer.

“Blue World” is a character-driven, crime thriller. Father John Lancaster understood life and his place in it until a porn star came to his confessional. Lancaster falls in love with the tragic beauty and to save her from a deranged killer intent on carving her up, he must battle his baser desires and descend into world darker than he ever imagined.

There’s some good stuff here and some great stuff. My only complaint about the book is the cover: a full moon and clouds above a cemetery, ugly grave stones, and a gargoyle statue come to life. The title and author are written in spoooooky script. Everything is tinged blue and the gargoyle looks like a deformed midget.

It's a shame. I hope it doesn't turn you off from giving the collection a try if you've never read McCammon. I'm not certain whether it's still in print, but I would be surprised if it wasn't readily available on the cheap from somewhere like Amazon. If nothing else, you can visit his website: http://www.robertmccammon.com/. There you can read both "Nightcrawlers" and "Night Calls The Green Falcon" for free.
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