Others of My Kind
By James Sallis
No Exit Press, 2013
His most famous series character is of course Lew Griffin, a black PI.
Now James Sallis adopts a female persona as his ‘other’: Jenny Rowan, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. At the start she is approached by a detective, Jack Collins, because another girl has been through what she had, been taken and held captive. Collins calls on her to enlist her help. So the story begins.
It is not a conventional crime novel by any means, but then you wouldn’t expect convention from Sallis. The horrors are to be read, in part, in the voice: disconnected, spare, skittish, lambent, haunted. In part they’re there in the portrait of an alternative present or a credible near-future: a world where America has a black woman president, where acts of terrorism are common and the weather weirdly erratic. Sallis’s various literary allusions and digressions also slowly work their magic and I’d read the the Cross/Crane story in particular, surely a stand-in for Sam Spade’s Flitcraft case, as key to what the novel is about.
Hammett’s parable told what happens when a man is suddenly confronted with the fact of his mortality. He adapts to circumstance. Although altogether darker, Sallis’s novel is also concerned with change and adaptation. The cost involved in moving on, not looking back, surviving day to day without self pity. Call it a meditation on the closing lines of Rilke’s fourth elegy.
A haunting novel, its horrors obscured by darkness.
The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.