Ghost of a Flea: A Lew Griffin Novel

Overview

"A man stands in a darkened room in New Orleans, looking out through a window, seeing the past. There's a body on the bed behind him; wind pecks at the window, traffic sounds drift aimlessly in. The man thinks that if he doesn't speak, doesn't think about what happened, somehow things will be alright again. He thinks about his own life, about the other's, about how the two of them came to be here." Lew Griffin is alone...or almost so. His relationship with Deborah is falling apart; his son, David, has disappeared again, leaving a note that sounds ...
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2001-11-01 Hardcover New 0802733697 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back Gurantee. Try ... Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

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Overview

"A man stands in a darkened room in New Orleans, looking out through a window, seeing the past. There's a body on the bed behind him; wind pecks at the window, traffic sounds drift aimlessly in. The man thinks that if he doesn't speak, doesn't think about what happened, somehow things will be alright again. He thinks about his own life, about the other's, about how the two of them came to be here." Lew Griffin is alone...or almost so. His relationship with Deborah is falling apart; his son, David, has disappeared again, leaving a note that sounds final. His friend Don Walsh, who is leaving the police department, is shot interrupting a robbery. And Lew is directionless: He hasn't written anything in years; he no longer teaches...there's nothing to fill his days. Even the attempt to discover the source of threatening letters to a friend leaves him feeling rootless and lost.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The enigmatic saga of the likable New Orleans private eye Lew Griffin draws to a satisfyingly convoluted closure in this sixth and final installment. Evoking a stark metaphysical landscape where time hovers on the verge of midnight and the sky is pregnant with rain, Sallis (Eye of the Cricket; Bluebottle; etc.) explores similar concerns over identity and the role of the detective as those found in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy. In what is sure to become an equally classic set of novels, he keeps it closer to the everyday with the very human exploits of Griffin and a detailed use of the streets and characters of the Delta City. But Sallis pushes the poetry of noir further than Auster and most other practitioners with such images as "another of society's makeshift facsimiles of dreams, rags and tatters of movies, media, popular literature, this new mythology, that my homeless soul had taken for its own and worn into the street." As Griffin faces his own mortality, his son is once again missing, and a cop friend is shot during a robbery; but these crime elements seem merely ornamental the big action sequence actually centers on pigeon-killers. Readers who enjoy more average PI novels may find Sallis's highly allusive style a bit much, but fans of particularly sophisticated writing will love the experience of being drawn deeper and deeper into circles of narrative complexity. Agent, the Vicky Bijur Literary Agency. (Jan. 10) FYI: Sallis is also the author of Chester Himes: A Life (Forecasts, Jan. 8). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This stirring series finale examines various father-and-son-like relationships. Black New Orleans private detective Lew Griffin is searching for his son, David, who has drifted away from home again; one of Lew's acquaintances, a man in a park, has been taking care of a mentally disturbed child who gets ill after the pigeons he feeds are poisoned; and Lew's comrade Don, a retired detective, takes home the teenaged robber who shot him. Meanwhile, Alouette, another acquaintance of Lew and a new mother, has been threatened at work, and police discover a mutilated body carrying David's wallet. This stimulating mix of evocative imagery, learned literate references, earthy observations, and philosophical/existential speculations mark an unusual detective's swan song. Strongly recommended for all mystery collections; Sallis is also a poet, critic, and author of Chester Himes: A Life. [Walker is also reissuing in paperback the first novel in the series, The Long-Legged Fly, currently out of print. Ed.] Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With this sixth Lew Griffin novel, Sallis brings to an end one of the genre's least conventional series (Blue Bottle, 1999, etc.). Teacher, writer, boozer, lover, never more than part-time shamus, Griffin is first and foremost a philosopher, albeit a two-fisted one. Given sufficient provocation-often only an eyedropper's worth-he can level a bad guy as effectively as Spade, Marlowe, or Hammer. But his real metier is thinking, thinking, relentlessly thinking, as opposed to Sherlockian sleuthing. This time out, for instance, the central crime is the poisoning of pigeons in a neighborhood park. Griffin, a black man trying to find a place in the white man's society, finds that his life has become by now a case of "too many lost battles." He's been beaten by cops, jailed, and banished to the streets, until melancholy suffuses his speech like a Louisiana miasma. "Everything got worse," he says. "Always. The world's single immutable law." The traditional mystery plot receives but a lick and a promise here: Griffin finds his long-lost son, loses him again, breaks up with still another woman, lumbers around the seamy side of New Orleans and, through day-trips back and forth in time, investigates himself-for the most part, as things turn out, unrewardingly. The reader makes out a lot better. Though despair eventually triumphs, it does so over luminously evocative prose and a protagonist of great charm whose wit flashes defiantly, and whose refusal to surrender is as gallant as it is heartbreaking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802733696
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Series: Lew Griffin Series
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 8.74 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

A writer of varied talents, James Sallis is a published poet, critic, translator, and novelist. He has been praised as “a fine talent, introspective, sardonic, a master of quick characterization and narrative compression” (Buffalo News) and as “a rare find…a fine prose stylist with an interest in moral struggle and a gift for the lacerating evocation of loss” (Newsday).

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


After a while I got up and walked to the window.I felt that if I didn't say anything, if Ididn't think about what had happened, didn'tacknowledge it, somehow it might all be all rightagain. I listened to the sound of my feet on the floor,the sounds of cars and delivery vans outside, my ownbreath. Whatever feelings I had, had been squeezedfrom me. I was empty as a shoe. Empty as the body onthe bed behind me.

    A limb bowed and pecked at the window, bowedand pecked again. Winds were coming in across LakePonchartrain with pullcarts of rain in their wake. Iheard music from far off but couldn't tell what it was,not even what kind. Maybe only wind caught in thebuilding's hard throats and hollows, or the city's randomnoise congealing.

    I seem never to learn that standing still doesn'twork. There you are with a smile on your face, theywon't notice me, and all the while all the things youfear keep moving towards you, their smiles a violenttravesty of your own. "In your books you never writeabout anything that's not past, done with, gone," LaVernehad said years ago. She knew that was a way tostand still, too. And she'd been right—about that asabout so much else.

    Sooner or later I'd have to move. Go back outthere, into the world, a world much smaller now,where it was about to rain. And where one of the coldestwinters in New Orleans history, like a bit playerwaited impatiently in the wings, strutting and thrumming,for its cue to go on.

    I'd spent my life in rooms much like this. Youmove, like a hermit crab, into their shell. Thenintime, as old clothes and mattresses do, they begin takingon your form. Their safe, familiar walls are a secondskin. You and the room become of a size and kind,indistinguishable. The room, its surfaces, its volumes,diminish when you leave; and you in turn, away fromthe room too long, find yourself growing restless,edgy, at loose ends.

    I peered out the window, a dim image of the roombehind me superimposed there like a fading photographor one taken too soon from the developing tray,suspended half-formed, neither wholly out of theworld nor quite a part of it. The window had become auniversal mirror. In it everything was reversed, turnedabout, transformed: light bled away to darkness, wallsand corners bent to obscure, indecipherable shapes,the whole of the room lumpen, autumnal.

    And out there in the window-world where a mothbeat against glass, a man I knew both too well and notat all stood watching. A man dark and ill-defined, withthe mark of lateness, of the autumnal, upon him too.

    I remembered Henry James's remark upon meetingGeorge Gissing that he appeared to be a man"quite particularly marked out for what is called in hisand my profession an unhappy ending." Gissing haddeployed his creativity as the single dynamic force ina life otherwise marked by doubts and indecision, discord,disappointment, disillusion. All of which had afamiliar ring to it.

    I must come to some sort of conclusion, I suppose, Ihad written, years ago. I can't imagine what it should be.

    Now I knew.

    All the people we've met, all those memories andvoices real or imagined, the hoarse whisper of ourcommunal sadness, the beat of regret and sorrow inour blood, the haphazard apprehensions that havemade us what we are—they're out there now in thedarkness, all of them, at these silent barricades. Allthe people (as LaVerne used to say) we've watcheddisappear out the back windows of trains. LaVerne,parents, Hosie Straughter, Vicky, Baby Boy McTell.Myself. This odd man Lew Griffin who understood somuch about others and so little, finally, about himself.

    Another moth joins the first. Together, apart, theybeat soundlessly at the window's periphery. This latecomer,a sphinx moth, has the body of a bulldog, colorslike those of an oil slick in moonlight. Also calleda hawkmoth. I watch the two familial insects, whocould scarcely be more dissimilar, bump and bounceaway from the window, skitter the length of its glass inlong slides. Perhaps I should value my life more, thatsomething else so badly wants in.

    Because the volume has been increased, or becauseother sounds have fallen away, I can make outthe music now. Charlie Patton's slurred voice and guitar,like hands that have gone into water and come outwith something shapeless, something that nonethelesscoheres for just a moment before it beginsspilling away. Po' Boy, Long Way from Home.

    A long way indeed.

    Here in this still room, then, in this moment beforethe world returns in a rush and bears me backinto it. I will tell you what I know: It is not yet midnight.It is not not raining.


Excerpted from Ghost of a Flea by James Sallis. Copyright © 2001 by James Sallis. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fabulous ending to a weird but delightful series

    New Orleans street corner philosopher Lew Griffin knows first hand that life stinks. However, though he expects the worst and life is hell, Lew surprisingly believes that to be human, at least in his mind, means to keep on fighting regardless of what destiny tosses at you. <P>A neighborhood lunatic is poisoning the local pigeons so Lew appoints himself as the savior of the park denizen. He begins to investigate his style, resulting in a cerebral evaluation of the murders so fowl. He also feels strongly that he must protect his friend¿s daughter, an apparent victim of a stalker, and re-find his son who has pulled another Houdini vanishing act. While being the self-proclaimed neighborhood amateur sleuth and recovering from a stroke, Lew ultimately, in his meandering style, investigates Lew. This is all in a days work for one who firmly concludes that Murphy is an optimistic idiot. <P> The sixth and last Griffin tale, GHOST OF A FLEA, is a fabulous ending to one of the weirdest but delightful series of the past decade. The wild but entertaining story line is all over the place, especially when it wanders through Lew¿s mind leaving those readers who enjoy a classic amateur sleuth needing to go elsewhere. Anyone who has kept up with James Sallis¿ books will want to read this novel to gain closure. Those who have not read the previous books, will enjoy this strange tale, but will probably be better off perusing the previous novels first. Mr. Sallis¿ pulls off quite a heptagon with the grand finale answering many questions left from the previous five. <P>Harriet Klausner

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