Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Salt River -- James Sallis

Salt River is a philosophical novel posing as a crime novel, or maybe it's the reverse. Let's just call it a novel, third in a series about John Turner, former convict, former counselor, current sheriff of a small, dying town somewhere near Memphis. There are crimes in the book, and there's violence, but there's no real resolution to things.

Maybe that's one of the points. We keep losing things in life, people keep dying, and we want it to stop, just as Turner does. But it doesn't stop, and when you come right down to it, there's not a lot we can do about it other than endure, if we can even do that.

Sounds bleak, right? And it is. When it comes to putting his characters through hell, Sallis yields to nobody, not even Ken Bruen, and like Bruen, Sallis presents it all in beautifully poetic prose in a very short novel, sounding an elegiac note throughout. You have to wonder why a lot more people aren't on the Sallis bandwagon. He's one of the best writers around.

5 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Seconded. Like Woodrell, he seems to prefer a life out of the limelight.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Sallis is an amazing writer. I think we have almost all of his books now.

Todd Mason said...

Sallis was apparently surprised that I'd remember his contributions to AMAZING in the 1970s, such as "Exigency and Martin Heidegger" (the title alone might snag it in memory). He was an elegant writer of prose with a good Tragic Sense of Life then, and apparently hasn't stopped. He has a bloggish site that I've passed along here before:

http://webdelsol.com/LITARTS/Writing_From_Life/

Bill Crider said...

Great site, and thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Bill. Like Ken Bruen, Sallis is one of my favorite writers.

And besides the series stuff, try his Drive.

Trust me on this one.

Jeff