With these five short stories and play, Dennis Lehane dredges up the same surreal noir he exhibited in his best-selling Mystic River. In "Running Out of Dog," two Vietnam vets fight over a car dealer’s wife. A refugee hides out in a hospital for a month in "ICU." "Gone Down to Corpus" depicts a violent world of high-school football. "Mushroom" features a guy, his gal, and a date-rape drug. In "Until Gwen," a hustler father and his son reconnect when the former gets out of jail and demands a missing diamond. Finally, Lehane adapts "Until Gwen" to a two-act play, Coronado. Set mostly in the South, these stories address class, gender, and violence—and the chance to redeem empty lives.
Morrow. 240 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 006113967X
"In these five stories and the play, characters leap off the page at you and there are a few you won’t soon get out of your mind. … The play is a wonderful adaptation, underscoring the strengths and weaknesses of fiction and drama." Michael Lee
"The centerpiece is the riveting ‘Until Gwen,’ which opens with an unforgettable image: ‘Your father picks you up from prison in a stolen Dodge Neon with an 8 ball in the glove compartment and a hooker named Mandy in the backseat.’ … The transformation from prose to script is interesting, but it’s the story that lingers, reminding you of the grim elegance of Lehane’s imagination." Connie Ogle
"Lehane saves the best for last with ‘Until Gwen,’ a story about Bobby, a young man who has survived prison and a shootout but who drowned in his own personal hell years before. It is in this story that Lehane constructs one of the most diabolical fathers ever put on paper." Carol Memmott
"Lehane has a startling capacity for assessing broken people—i.e., who can be restored to the fold of humanity and who should be put down like animals. These five stories are filled with hard cases, and the answer to whether someone can be salvaged is all in the eyes." Gillian Flynn
"Three of the stories are enjoyable but minor, two are substantial, and the play is an angry, violent, sometimes shocking piece that I would walk several miles to see performed. … If you’ve never read Lehane, you probably should start with Mystic River, but if you’re already a fan, you’ll savor this new glimpse into one of the most unpredictable minds in current American fiction." Patrick Anderson
Dennis Lehane, one of the best crime and literary fiction writers alive today, successfully answered the question most critics asked when eyeing this new collection: Can a novelist write good short stories? The answer here is a resounding yes. Reviewers agree that these stories, some previously published, illustrate Lehane’s ample talents in portraying pure evil through character-driven dramas. While "Mushroom" is perhaps the weak link, "Until Gwen" and its companion Coronado, which was produced Off-Broadway last year, received rave reviews. So prioritize your reading accordingly. "And who better to entertain the newcomer to the genre," noted USA Today, "than an author whose stories make us dig deep down into our own hopes and fears."
Also by the Author
Mystic River (1991): A blue-collar Boston neighborhood experiences a grisly murder, and three old friends—the cop, the suspect, and the dead girl’s father—are thrust back together.