The Killer Is Dying

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Overview

In what is at once a coming-of-age novel and a realistic crime novel, The Killer Is Dying is above all the story of three men of vastly different age and background, and of the shape their lives take against the unforgiving sunlight and sprawl of America's fifth largest city, Phoenix. The detective is looking for the killer, Christian, though he doesn't know that. Christian is trying to find the man who stepped in and took down his target before he had the chance. And the boy, Jimmie, is having the killer's ...

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The Killer Is Dying: A Novel

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Overview

In what is at once a coming-of-age novel and a realistic crime novel, The Killer Is Dying is above all the story of three men of vastly different age and background, and of the shape their lives take against the unforgiving sunlight and sprawl of America's fifth largest city, Phoenix. The detective is looking for the killer, Christian, though he doesn't know that. Christian is trying to find the man who stepped in and took down his target before he had the chance. And the boy, Jimmie, is having the killer's dreams. While they never meet, they are inextricably linked, and as their stories unfold, all find the solace of community.

Winner of the 2011 Hammett Prize

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Unlike those pretenders who play in dark alleys and think they're tough, James Sallis writes from an authentic noir sensibility, a state of mind that hovers between amoral indifference and profound existential despair. As alienated antiheroes go, they don't get any darker than the protagonist of The Killer Is Dying
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
In this hallucinatory, almost visionary novel of suspense set in Phoenix, Sallis (Drive) focuses on three people of vastly different backgrounds and situations—Christian, a gun for hire, who's suffering from a mortal ailment; Jimmie, a boy of about 13 who's been abandoned by his parents and whose dreams inexplicably tap into the contract killer's consciousness; and Sayles, a cynical, lonely, burned-out detective, whose wife is dying in hospice. When another assassin steps up and takes out Christian's quarry, Christian goes after the guy who beat him to it. Unknown to Christian, Sayles is also on the killer's trail. Meanwhile, Jimmie survives in his parents' house by selling stuff on eBay, waiting for the authorities to notice he's all alone. Through no-nonsense staccato chapters, with minimal action, Sallis does a superb job exploring the workings of his characters' thoughts and motives. The September release of the film adaptation of Drive, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, should help propel sales. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The heat is dry and the stories inconclusive in Sallis's (Lew Griffin novels; "Turner Trilogy") Phoenix noir. A terminally ill hit man circles his prey, even after that prey is shot by somebody else. A team of detectives circles all three, as the story spirals outward to include indelibly etched portraits of neighbors and mute witnesses. Feeling dizzy yet? The story unfolds like a time-lapse sequence in which a flower (or, in this case, a blood stain) blossoms frame by frame. Sallis is often characterized as a poet, but there are no poesies, rhymes, or reasons here. Rather, he is the poet of blind alleys, blank walls, and the blighted lives of those we blithely pass on our way elsewhere. As with a visit to Phoenix, by the end we need to gulp fresh air. VERDICT Readers who appreciate Jim Thompson and still aren't aware of Sallis would be well advised to seek him out. His stock could rise on the basis of a recent film adaptation of his 1995 title Drive, starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, which was well received at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
Kirkus Reviews

Sallis' latest prose-poem entangles a hit man's last days with a Phoenix cop's search for him and an abandoned boy who's tormented by the killer's dreams.

Minutes before the veteran killer who calls himself Christian plans to execute his latest target, someone else takes his shot—someone a lot less effective than he is. Now accountant John Rankin is hospitalized but very much alive, and homicide detective Dale Sayles, who naturally knows nothing of Christian's existence, is left to wonder why anyone would take a shot at him. By the time Sayles, whose beloved wife Josie is dying, and his partner Graves, a newbie who's so full of attitude that he spends a night in jail after running off his mouth to an impatient judge, get a line on the shooter, they've stumbled onto the trail of the killer they call Dollman because of the way he identifies himself to prospective clients and others: "I sell dolls." Meanwhile, across town, Jimmie Kostof, an enterprising teen who really has been selling dolls and other toys through his own mail-order business ever since his parents left him on his own, is troubled by violent third-person dreams he finds scary but meaningless. His dreams are just one more example of how "the world speaks to us in so many languages...and we understand so few."

Sallis (Salt River,2007, etc.) takes his time weaving together the lives of these lost souls, each apparently as aimless as the bugs and birds they can't help noticing. The payoff is a moment of well-nigh miraculous consolation.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802779472
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 8/7/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,402,995
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

James Sallis is the acclaimed author of more than two dozen volumes of fiction, poetry, translation, essays, and criticism, including the Lew Griffin series, Drive (optioned to Hollywood, movie underway), Cypress Grove, Cripple Creek, and Salt River. His biography of the great crime writer Chester Himes is an acknowledged classic. Sallis lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife, Karyn, and an enormous white cat.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Good but frustrating

    When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was intrigued, thinking it sounded like it would be a good crime/mystery novel. It wasn't a story that immediately grabbed my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next, though. For me, it was a case of turning the pages trying to understand. The chapters flow seamlessly; however, it takes a beat or two for you to realize that the character point of view has changed. The stories of the three primary characters are not interwoven yet somehow are connected. The Killer is Dying is a very well written story. It's a good story that I liked and at the same time found frustrating. And, while not my favorite book, I would recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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