Inventive, idiosyncratic crime writer Charyn ( Elsinore ; Maria's Girls et al.) gathers here a comparably vibrant and expert collection of international writing that often probes the far reaches of the mystery genre in a variety of forms. In his introduction, Charyn says: ``The best crime novels often solve no crimes, but lead us into the maze of our very own lives . . . They push the genre of crime writing to the very edge of its own possibilities . . . to present a genuine literature of crime.'' Despite a few duds, e.g., Joyce Carol Oates's gothic, minutiae-laden ``How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction and Began My Life Over Again,'' masters of the mystery novel set off spectacular crime fiction fireworks. In ``The Watts Lions,'' Walter Mosely's L.A. sleuth, Easy Rawlins, finds a simple case of revenge in 1950s Watts complicated by a maze of rape and subsequent violence. Andrew Vachss's ``Cain'' details a simple case of animal torture, while James Ellroy depicts a low-rent grifter who, while caring for a deceased rich man's pit bull terrier, arranges to ensure a share of the pooch's legacy (``Gravy Train''). Raymond Carver's ``Cathedral'' features little overt crime but near-perfect structure and prose, as the visit of a blind man awakens thoughts both kind and cruel in his hosts, a married couple. Also included is short fiction by Flannery O'Connor, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Paco Taibo II, Nadine Gordimer, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and Tony Hillerman. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers who like the dark, disturbing, and sinister will find this collection right up their alley. Charyn has chosen works from some of the world's most talented writers in order to "present a genuine literature of crime, a poetics that cannot be put into a box." Certainly many of the stories don't fit the traditional crime/mystery mold. Surrealistic, macabre, violent, and even sadistic, they paint a picture of a terrifying and confusing world. Highsmith's "Snail Watcher" tells of a snail enthusiast who is engulfed and smothered by his slimy pets. Carter's "Werewolf" is reminiscent of those terror-inducing stories, often told at children's slumber parties, involving hacked-off limbs and bloody stumps. Grimaldi's "Fathers and Daughters" tells of the terrible revenge extracted by an abused child, while Montalban's "A Boy and His Dog" contrasts the thoughtless lives of the very rich with the violence and futility of the very poor. Shocking and compelling, gripping and terrifying, these stories represent a new and not altogether appealing subset of the crime and mystery genre. Still, this is an important acquisition for all serious mystery collections.