Moonchasers and Other Stories
This isn’t a review of the whole book, just the short novel that’s the title story. I’ll read the rest of the stories throughout the autumn and into the Christmas holidays. We lost Ed Gorman this past weekend, or at least that’s when the news of his passing became public. As of this writing, I’ve not seen formal obituary with the exact date of death.
I’ve had a print copy of Moonchasers for years, but I’ve only read a few of the stories in it and none recently. So after hearing of Ed’s passing, I wanted to read some of his work. I chose Moonchasers because I had always wanted to read it. It was the perfect story for the mood I was in.
On the surface it’s a crime story, but it’s really more than that. It’s a love story to the 1950s, a tribute to the detective novels and films and science fiction magazines of the time, a coming of age story, and more. It’s Literature.
The story concerns Tom, our narrator, and his best friend Barney. They’re 15 years old, live in a small Iowa town, and are bored. So one summer night they break into an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town to see what’s there. What they find is a wounded bank robber with a satchel of stolen loot. Rather than turning him in, they help him by bringing him food and medicine.
Unfortunately, they aren’t able to do this without coming to the attention of the local bully on the police force. This sets off a chain of events that will cause Tom to make some hard decisions, decisions that will cost him something. In other words, he’s about to have to grow up.
The first person narration gives the story its voice, which I think is one of best things about it. Tom is a likeable but flawed protagonist. There’s a depth of characterization here that you don’t usually see in the average crime story. There’s also a sense of time and place permeating the story. If I channel my inner English teacher, I can almost see Tom’s character arc as a metaphor for the passing of youth and the lost idealism of the 50s, at least as the 50s are often portrayed in the media.
All of Gorman’s strengths are on full display here. The lean prose that pulls you along; the characters you can’t help caring about, even the bad guys; the well constructed crime story; scenes in which the tension mounts. This short novel is an excellent introduction to Ed Gorman’s work. If you’ve not read Gorman, start here.