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by James Reasoner


Introduction by Ed Gorman

I was going to begin this by saying “Let me tell you about James Reasoner.” But nothing tells the Reasoner story more eloquently than the bibliography at the tail end of this book.

Yes, one man did write all those books. And wrote them well.

I know this first hand because I’ve not only been one of his many loyal readers, I’ve also been one of his editors. I’ve bought both short stories and novels from James. And I’ll tell you true—he’s a professional’s professional, a writer’s writer. He got that way, and stays that way, by combining talent with skill with passion. For all that he’s written, I’ve never read a single piece by James that felt dashed off or underwritten. Every time out he does his best work.

While he’s written at least two novels that are acknowledged masterpieces—Texas Wind and the recent Dust Devils—his short stories have never received the recognition they deserve. Hopefully this collection will begin to change that.

The title story in the book is something just about everybody can relate to. We’ve all hung around people our parents warned us against. And they warned us for good reason (as we found out later). “Old Times’ Sake” is a wry, sly take on such a friend. It’s a crafty crime story with a great payoff.

The same with “Five Easy Lessons.” Here we’re dealing with distrust and betrayal. Though the tone avoids the morose, the story has real bite, even an angry edge.

“The Old College Try” deals with boss-types who make the mistake of thinking they’re in control and you, as their serf, don’t really have the brains to figure things out on your own. Hah.

There are three Delaney detective stories. Here we see James riffing on the fair clue school of mystery fiction. But making it his own whether he’s dealing with the epicene world of a museum with its fine art or the sad dusty world of a dead-end hotel. Delaney is one of James’ working class heroes, modest men who work diligently at finding truths large and small.

For me one of the five best crime stories published in the past twenty-five years is “Graveyard Shift.” This is about real crime and real tragedy. No romantic neo-noir; no mannered literary posing. This is about our everyday world and it is crushing to read.

“Cominger”, “A Matter of Perspective”, and “Down in the Valley” are related not by characters or storylines but by James’ take on modern day Texas. His love for it and his occasional dismay with it. The first two are tight, taut, compelling mysteries. The third bears on the problem of illegal immigration we hear so much about today.

James is an artist, not just a writer. Hemingway called it “angle of vision,” the way one sees the world. James Reasoner puts his stamp on everything he writes. His work can be funny, violent, sad, even whimsical at times but it doesn’t matter because the craft and the art are always informed by the wisdom of the man telling the stories.

Any man who wrote both Texas Wind and Dust Devils is obviously a major crime fiction novelist. As this collection will convince, he’s also a major crime fiction short story writer as well.


Ed Gorman

November 2007

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