Lew Griffin is a survivor, a black man in New Orleans, a detective, a teacher, a writer. And he is a man subject to all of the frailties to which we are heir. Having spent years finding others, he has lost his son...and himself in the process.
Now a derelict has appeared in a New Orleans hospital claiming to be Lewis Griffin and displaying a copy of one of Lew's novels. It is the beginning of a quest that will take Griffin into his own past while he tries to deal in the present with a search for three missing young men.
Somewhere in the underbelly of the Crescent City, there are answers and more questions; there are threats and the promise of salvation; and there is a dangerous descent into the alcoholic haze that marked Griffin's younger days as well as the possibility of rising from it, redeemed. Lew Griffin's investigation is the hero's journey, mythic and strengthening and thoroughly satisfying.
I’m brought back, yet again, to my conviction that the best American writers are hiding out like CIA sleepers, long forgotten fugitives from a discontinued campaign.
- Iain Sinclair, London Review of Books [read the full review]
Sallis is a fastidious man, intelligent and widely read. There's nothing slapdash or merely strategic about his work ... peculiar and visionary.
- Iain Sinclair, London Review of Books
Classic American crime of the highest order
- Time Out
dazzling, poignant and totally satisfying
- Publishers Weekly [read the full review]
The fourth book in the Lew Griffin series (following Black Hornet, 1994) proves once again that Sallis is one of the least conventional and most interesting writers working in the mystery genre. Readers who prefer plots that move straight ahead and fast may resist the spell of his talent, but those willing to untangle a twisted time line and go with the peculiar flow of Sallis's unique prose will find many rewards. "What I did here, in this extraordinary thing sitting beside me, is this: I quit trying," says Griffin, the New Orleans-based, 50-ish African American novelist, teacher and occasional detective about his new manuscript. "Quit trying to finesse the failures and forfeitures of my life into fiction.... Quit trying to force patterns, however comforting and fetching and artistic these patterns might be, onto the catch-as-catch can of what I actually lived, the rigorous disorder of my days." That's just one of many references to the act of writing that dot the book. One of the characters is named Sam Delany, a reference to the science fiction writer whose work Sallis has edited. Here, Griffin is taken up with searches for missing children: Shon, Delany's 15-year-old half-brother, who has dropped into a dangerous world of drugs; Danny Walsh, the son of Griffin's best friend, who also seems determined to destroy himself; and David, Griffin's own, long-gone son. Looking for a connection to David, Griffin sets out on a drunken quest through some of New Orleans's seediest sectors. There's not much mystery or plot resolution in this long section, but it leads up to an ending that manages to be dazzling, poignant and totally satisfying.
a writer with rich metaphor, wonderful vocabulary and heart
- Andi Shechter, reviewingtheevidence.com [read the full review]
James Sallis is a superb writer
- The Times
Sublime, soulful, and essential
- Mike Stafford, Bookgeeks
If Camus wrote pulp, he'd read like Sallis
- Andrew Donaldson, Times South Africa