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The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams

The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams

by James O'Barr

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"He avenges the innocent dead. He stalks the crimson road of the slain. He mourns lost love so ardently that desire and death become one. He is the dream-carrier of holy retribution. And in the name of love he delivers justice to the wicked."
—From the Introduction

With this chilling collection of stories and poems, J. O'Barr—the creator of


"He avenges the innocent dead. He stalks the crimson road of the slain. He mourns lost love so ardently that desire and death become one. He is the dream-carrier of holy retribution. And in the name of love he delivers justice to the wicked."
—From the Introduction

With this chilling collection of stories and poems, J. O'Barr—the creator of The Crow—and Ed Kramer host an ominous array of interpretations of the gothic phenomenon by acclaimed writers well acquainted with the dark side, including Alan Dean Foster, Ramsey Campbell, Gene Wolfe, Storm Constantine, Nancy Collins, Andrew Vachss, Iggy Pop, and Henry Rollins.

Featuring original artwork by such top artists as Ron Walotsky, Rob Prior, Tom Canty, Tim Bradstreet, Don Maitz, and Bob Eggleton, The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams evokes a modern night-world and its tormented denizens ensnared by unspeakable evil, enslaved by unquenchable longing, engulfed by the thirst for revenge, and enfolded by the enigmatic, eternal wings of The Crow.

Here a resurrected gunslinger gets a final showdown with his archenemy. . . .
A murder victim and a dying boy mete out poetic justice to a sadistic criminal. . . . A serial killer turned government assassin takes three abused children under his savage wing. . . . A tormented rogue cop literally fights fire with fire. . . . A wise talking crow guides the vengeful hand of a murdered girl's lover. . . . and much more.

For both the confirmed fan and the curious newcomer, this spellbinding, shocking, darkly sensual collection offers passage to an extraordinary literary realm: a place of macabre morality tales and existentialadventures, of terror and tenderness—from which no reader can hope to leave unchanged. For when you take flight with The Crow, there is no turning back.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An antihero created in the comics almost 20 years ago, undead vigilante Eric Draven has become a major success in the world of cult character media franchises. Now Kramer (editor of Sandman: Book of Dreams) and Crow creator O'Barr have assembled a substantial anthology of original Crow-spawned stories, poems and artwork, including pieces by some of the most respected names in fantasy and horror. "Born of personal tragedy, the Crow wraps together two of man's strongest emotions and desires--love and revenge," Kramer writes. The best of these stories step beyond formula to show human souls tormented by loss and hate. Ramsey Campbell's "Twice by Fire" follows a reborn cop seeking redemption for a crime he committed that destroyed him and his family. Andrew Vachss and Nancy A. Collins stalk their usual terrain, he with a hard-boiled crusader taking on the kiddie-porn business ("The Real Thing"), she with "Variations on a Theme," starring her series character, vampire Sonja Blue. Other standouts include Gene Wolfe's haunting "The Night Chough," in which the crow who guides a man bent on revenge is much more than he seems, and the blackly comic "Carrion Crows," by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris. Last up but definitely not least is John Shirley's spiritually potent "Wings Burnt Black," the collection's deepest, most resonant--and most unexpected--tale, in which the Crow assaults Heaven in search of understanding and vengeance for the death of his beloved. This book is a must for Crow fans but also rich reading for any admirer of literate horror and dark fantasy. (Nov.)
Horror Online
The Crow: Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams is a stand-out selection for any lover of dark fiction as well as those already fascinated with the Crow.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.16(w) x 9.19(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt

"Where is Shelly?" Eric suddenly felt a dizzy need to see her.

"I thought you wanted to interview God--now it's the lost love you want to see? Not that they aren't identical. But not to you, not yet. You really ought to keep your mind on your aim. Spirits quickly disintegrate, here, who flicker from one mental fantasy to another. To answer your question, Shelly is in another realm. She is caught up in her expectations. If you go there, you'll get caught up too and your aim will be left undone. You do intend to wreak justice, no? A reckoning?" A ripple ran through the Guardian Entity's living iconography ...

"Yes," Eric replied. "A reckoning."

"And you know, of course, that inflicting suffering on the Bad Boys, will not really balance the scales very well."

"Yes, but it's better than nothing."

"'It's better than nothing'--which is just exactly what God said ..."

"It could be that you're not the servant of heaven you seem; perhaps you're a demon, sent to endlessly stall me. The way the Murderer stalled me."

"I contain shadows of course, Eric, but I am not a shadow, no. You're more shadow than I am, my boy. I see you have a gun with you."

"Yes," put in the crow familiar, "he has it. His will is in the form of a gun."

There was a shade of warning in the monkish crow's comment.

"I see it. Most impressive." His "voice" was surprisingly lacking in derision. "Quite a piece you have there. What caliber? .45? A Colt, is it?"

Only then did Eric understand his own gun: it was, especially on this plane, not a mechanism of steel, except in shape; here the gun was the embodiment of his will.

The gun was anexpression of him, as all guns will be for the user, anywhere, but on a deeper level: literally, the bullet was fashioned from his will, was compressed will itself.

As such, it was not without meaning here; it could destroy, in the higher realms.

"I will see Shelly," said Eric, "after the reckoning. Now: I have come to demand: Who is at fault? The Murderer has convinced me, at least to the point of reasonable doubt, that the Murderer could never have been in command of himself, really, that he was a cog moved by other cogs. Some seem to have choice in their lives--others have no choice, because of the absoluteness of their nature and, I guess, nurture. Seems like he's one of those. Unless he's lying, and I can detect lies, and he wasn't. And then there are those born demented; bad seeds, and all that: how much choice have they got in what they are? None. So who's really to blame for what they do?"

"So you're saying you should forgive everyone with equal compassion because they cannot help themselves. 'Father forgive them they know not what they do'?"

"Now you are mocking me. No. I exist, post death, purely to effect a reckoning; to thereby ease my suffering, and Shelly's. So our spirits can rest. There must be a reckoning. This is, after all, a universe in which math is king, no?"

"No, mathematics is a chancellor, merely."

"Deny it: that the Murderer is, ultimately, not responsible for his actions."

"Do you know Shakespeare? ''Tis true 'tis pity; And pity 'tis 'tis true.'"

"I see."

Eric drew his gun.

"Then ...," said Eric, "... who do I kill?"

"In the land of death? Be serious."

"I'm not obtuse. This place has as much to do with being as with nonbeing and even in the land of death one can be made not to be. Who, then? Is it God?"

The Entity did not reply.

Eric thundered his demand: "Who do I kill? Who, finally, is responsible for Shelly's death? MUST I KILL GOD?"

Must I kill God ... Must I kill God ... Must I ...

They weren't echoes, in the sonic sense, but somehow the words reverberated all through the various heavens ...

Must I kill God ...

He remembered the Zen saying that went: Kill the Buddha! Kill the Buddha!

The Guardian Entity's signatory substance opened, like a gate, and the Crow walked through it; the monkish crow familiar following. Walking through the gate of the Entity's body.

They ascended stairs that were in that moment created for him, and they passed through all spectra, from red-shift to yellow to blue to the place where waves move so frequently they mesh one into another and come to a stop, outside of time. A place where you could, if you could go there, strap galaxies onto your shoes for roller blades. The place that is the Sum of Suns and the Sum of Sums, at the pinpoint of the pinpoint, atop the Ray of Creation.

Here, somehow, the monk had become more his own signification; more living symbol: and glancing at him Eric saw that he had the head of a crow, big as a man's head, within a monk's robe. Something like Horus, Eric thought.

He was a little surprised at his ability to think at all here; surprised that this place didn't destroy his mind, as it was quite beyond human capability. But he knew, then, what protected him:

The gun.

The gun in his hand was the focal point of his will; so long as he kept the greater part of his intentionality focused there, it parted the walls of wonder for him, and kept him sane.

At length, they came to a realm where all music accorded into one recurring chord that was always the same and yet never repeated. Here an angel stood in their path, towering over them; a manlike figure of light, complete with magnificent iridescent-white wings, a tarot image that moved and spoke and carried a sword, clutched in both hands and angled downward, that seemed to stretch on forever and yet held the proportions of a sword. Eric had a sense that the sword was in relation to the subjective universe the way that a laser is in relation to a compact disc; or perhaps the way a threaded needle is in relation to the tapestry it elaborates.

"Are you the one?" Eric asked.

"Could you be more specific?" Its voice was at one with the endless chord that reverberated here. Each of its words had infinite implications. Eric focused on those that were relevant to him.

"The forger of destinies," Eric went on, with no hint of fear. "The one who decides--to be more specific--who is to be murdered, on my world. The one who decided that Shelly would be tortured to death. That one, I would destroy."

"Even if, in consequence, the universe tumbles apart?"

"Even if the universe tumbles apart," Eric replied, without hesitation. "Shelly was my world. All that was good in it."

"How did one so selfish come so far? But now I perceive: the gun. You are a kind of magician, and this gun is a kind of magical staff."

"It is the instrument of my will, which is at one with my vengeance. Who is responsible for what happened to me and Shelly? Never mind my murder: who caused Shelly to suffer as she did before she died? Was it the Devil? Is there a Satan who frustrates God's designs and takes away choice and makes a joke out of justice? Is that the deal?"

"Satan, Iblis, Shaitan, Set, whatever you care to call him, is incorporated within the total being, and is a minor functionary. Another kind of gatekeeper; a filter. A shadow. He is not responsible."

"Then who do I kill? Well? Let's have it, dammit! MUST I KILL GOD?"

Eric half expected the angel to make a remark about monumental, cosmic hubris; but the angel didn't. The angel knew well the power of totality of belief; of focusing absolute attention on one's Aim. How else had the created part of the universe been created in the first place?

"Yes," said the angel, not exactly lying, "I am the one responsible."

So Eric raised the gun to the place where the angel's eyes should be, to the two beacons of chaotic light set side by side, and aimed it between those fulminations, and with all that he was, made the bullet of his absolute dedication to vengeance "fire" from the "gun" and--

The angel's wings folded about him, and the bullet struck a wingtip, which exploded in white flame, and burned like the tip of a welding torch and a burned feather fell, down past the sword and into creation, and then the angel opened himself, as if he were a gate, and Eric stepped through that gate, and into the Place where God, in our terminology, can be seen.

Something like Ezekiel's Wheel turned there; something like a mandala of evanescent configuration; but Eric knew these appearances for semblance, too, and he passed through them also, with a shudder, keeping all his attention focused in his gun, and he found himself ... strange expression, that: 'he found himself' ... in the Presence which, to the best of Eric's capacity to see, was something like ...

... the place where plus and minus meet and incorporate one another; where positive and negative, active and passive neutralize; where two needles meet point to infinitely sharp point, their unconditionally sharp points exactly poised one on the other; the needles--widening past the junctured points to infinitely expanding cones--turning each in the direction relatively opposite the other. And pinned between these points is consciousness, present tense: the first circle of consciousness, the stone dropped in the pond; between these point-on-point spikes is crucified this: the unspeakable suffering of God.

And radiating from this suffering: the ineffable mercy of God.

An Eye. There was, to the best of his capacity for seeing it, an Eye there, an Eye which spoke ...

The lame and inadequate phrase "the best of all possible worlds" came into Eric's mind. The word "possible" was like a key opening up a Pandora's box of answers to his spoken and unspoken questions. The Eye spoke to Eric and he heard it this way: "I am an outgrowth of the necessity of Being. I create, and am myself created by the Must Be. I am trying to retrieve Time and thus end suffering; I can do only that which I can do. Pull your trigger, and complete my crucifixion."

Eric pulled the trigger, with a despairing sense of inevitability.

The bullet struck where the two infinite needles met and a void opened there and inexorably Eric was drawn into the void, and was not: he no longer existed: and then he was and ...

... and found himself ...

... spinning there, between the needles, in all possible directions, looking out at looking in ...

Shelly ...

Remembering her directed the part of God that had always been Eric to an interior orientation, back to the grip of time, and he was, then, back on the Earth ...

The mortal world. Standing on the rim of a balcony. In Detroit, Michigan, on a certain October 31.

"Oh," he said, sighing. "I see."

"You really went?" the Murderer asked, with real curiosity, as he whoofed up another hit of cocaine from a little metal bottle, so as to blur the pain in his shattered hand.


"Did you find out who's really responsible for your--no, screw that, I sure as hell would like to know: who's responsible for me being the way I am? I mean, I killed my old man and my mom, 'cause I blamed them, but that didn't seem to do it, you know? I mean--"

"Shut up. You're tweaking. Yes, I put a bullet into God. Was in consequence reminded that I am you and I am God, and Justice is doing the best It can, and I myself am the one impossibly responsible, and ... and the truth is often paradoxical."

"I see. So there's no point in killing me!"

Eric hesitated; and then a burnt feather drifted down from above. His familiar gave a raucous cry and plucked the feather up in its beak and flew to Eric's shoulder. He took the charred feather from his friend's shiny black beak, the gun-burnt feather which had fallen from the final angel, and he twined it into his hair as the Murderer waited for his answer.

Would he let the Murderer go?

The Murderer made another stab at persuasion. "If I am you, and you me, and we're all contained in God, then, eventually, if you shot me--you'd be shooting yourself, right? So you've gotta cop to it: there's really no point in shooting me."

"Wrong. There's a thing called consolation." Eric smiled. "It's better than nothing. Shooting you--is the consolation prize."

Then things went as they did in the tale of the Crow, and justice was served, insofar as it could ever be, and the Murderer was shot dead by Eric's will and with metal-jacketed .45 slugs, and Eric's spirit in due course found its way to Shelly and, there, after the human presumptions melted away and Eric and Shelly came out of expectation into the light that is divine attention, Eric found more than consolation, he found completion: in her.

Meet the Author

J. O'Barr is the creator of The Crow. He is currently working on a screenplay for a new Crow movie. He lives in Detroit, Michigan.

Ed Kramer is the coeditor of The Sandman anthology with Neil Gaimen. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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