James Sallis: What the Critics are Saying
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On Willnot...

There is a deep poetry that lurks beneath the language, a rhythm that beautifully captures the way real people speak and think.
Doug Johnstone

At this point, it may be fair and best to say James Sallis is a genre unto himself.
Craig McDonald

One of the best literary writers in the United States.
Mary Whipple

[Sallis] might just be one of our greatest living writers.
USA Today

It doesn't get any better than this...[Willnot] is arguably the best of [Sallis'] lot to date. [Willnot] is a beautiful, wonderful puzzle.
Bookreporter, Joe Hartlaub, 24 June 2016 (Read full review)

A beautiful read from a master.
The Times (London), Marcel Berlins, 18 June, 2016

Willnot isn't the type of novel you're expecting. It's better than that.
New York Journal of Books website, Ryan David Jahn (Read full review)

Some books are character driven; others are plot driven. Willnot is prose-driven — a rarity, and a most welcome one.
Bookpage (Top Pick), Bruce Tierney, July, 2016 (Read full review)

What a lovely, unexpected book - taking you safely, not without loss, where you didn't know it was going.
John Harvey, 12 April, 2016 (via Twitter)

Jim Sallis's Willnot is a slippery, poetic mystery that becomes a love story to small town America.
Ian Rankin, 13 April, 2016 (via Twitter)

Willnot is, in fact, an extraordinary book, not just about place, but the interaction between past, present and future.
Woody Haut, June 20, 2016 (Read full review. Also appears in Crimetime)

James Sallis is one of our greatest living crime writers and Willnot continues an almost unseemly streak of excellence. Try to get his words, his stories, his people out of your head. Just try.
Laura Lippman, June, 2016

James Sallis remains at the very top of his game, and I can't recommend Willnot highly enough.
The Big Issue, Doug Johnstone, 15 June, 2016 (Read full review)

A profoundly moving, quietly eloquent jewel of a novel.
Booklist (starred review), Bill Ott, June, 2016

Willnot packs a big punch for its slim size and spare prose... Sallis expertly weaves notes of hope throughout his pungent and often melancholy tale.
Seattle Times, Adam Woog, 12 June, 2016 (Read full review)

Sallis' latest has a lot to recommend it: an ingenious and unusual use of the Macguffin; pungent dialogue; a world that's either dark shot through with abundant light or light shot through with abundant dark; likable, complex characters. A brisk and sure-handed treat.
Kirkus Reviews, 30 March 2016 (Read full review)

Sallis is without peer when it comes to interweaving seemingly disparate narrative threads, and his work consistently challenges readers to question their assumptions about themselves and other people.
Publishers Weekly (starred review), 18 April 2016 (Read full review)

On Others of My Kind...

Call it a meditation on the closing lines of Rilke's fourth elegy. A haunting novel, its horrors obscured by darkness.
A Compulsive Reader, P.P.O. Kane, 26 March 2014 (Read full review)

'Crime fiction' seems too limited a term for the writing of the American master James Sallis. Despite the rigorously stripped-down quality of his writing, Sallis manages to incorporate both considerations of the nature of identity and provocative engagements with the very form of writing itself — as in this latest book, a novella crowded with a host of ideas that threaten to burst its slim 157 pages.
Crime Time, Barry Forshaw, 9 December 2013 (Read full review)

Haunting and immensely readable.
The Spectator, Andrew Taylor, 9 November 2013 (Read full review)

[Others of My Kind] possesses an emotional depth that Sallis, or any other crime writer, has rarely reached before. In just 157 pages he creates a story full of heart, imbued with a warmth of human spirit that most longer books could only dream of.
The Independent, Doug Johnstone, 27 October 2013 (Read full review)

Rowan's decision and its consequences inhabit the soul of this superb story, told with Sallis' exceptional skill that suggests the human spirit can prevail, no matter the horrors it confronts.
The Daily Mail, Geoffrey Wansell, 31 October 2013 (Read full review)

The theme of working with "what you have left," a constant in Sallis's world, permeates every sentence of this slim, insightful work.
Publishers Weekly (starred review), 29 July 2013 (Read full review)

A stunning work of art... short, powerful and deeply affecting.
Poisoned Pen/The Poisoned Fiction Review, Steve Shadow Schwartz, 8 August 2013 (Read full review)


On Driven...

Moviegoers, who may have caught the award-winning film version of the first book, starring Ryan Gosling, are likely to grab this to see if Sallis still has his masterful noir touch. He does; "Driven" is a delicious treat for those seeking dark, superb escapism.
Lansing State Journal, Ray Walsh, 21 May 2012 (Read full review)

"Driven" runs on philosophy as well as fossil fuel. Its characters are thoughtful and flawed, and when they slam against on another, it's like a demolition derby of ideas as well as vehicles. To drive, the novel insists, is to be. And to drive is to think. ...lean, tidy sentences, but the effect is electric. Driver knows how to drive. And Sallis knows how to write.
Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller, 18 May 2012 (Read full review)

Lean and lethal.
The New York Times, Marilyn Stasio, 8 April 2012 (Read full review)

A switchblade of a little novel... Driven is simply a great ride.
NPR Books, John Wilwol, 25 April 2012 (Read full review)

Tight, action-packed prose.
Gear Patrol, Scott Packard, 27 April 2012 (Read full review)

A worthy successor, a crime story that challenges and entertains in equal (very different) measures.
Spinetingler, 3 April, 2012

Terse, brutal, poetic, perfectly wrought.
Publishers Weekly, starred review (Read full review)

There's a lot packed into the spare, poetic prose. The characters are fabulously well-fleshed out... Sentences are carefully wrought and revelatory.
The Taunton Gazette, Rae Francoeur, 4 April 2012 (Read full review)


On The Killer is Dying...

Another extraordinary novel from James Sallis... An immensely rewarding read.
The Compulsive Reader, P.P.O. Kane, 26 April 2014 (Read full review)

Hallucinatory, almost visionary... Through no-nonsense staccato chapters, with minimal action, Sallis does a superb job exploring the workings of his characters' thoughts and motives.
Publishers Weekly, starred review (Read full review)

[Sallis is] one of crime fiction's best-kept secrets... It's dark, but Sallis' deep empathy for his sharply imagined characters shines through. Seattle Times, Adam Woog, 13 November, 2011 (Read full review)

I came away from this book feeling the same gratitude I've felt for other Sallis novels. No other writer renders the texture of solitude with more uncanny accuracy or brings more poetic intensity to the everyday.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, John Repp, 2 August 2011 (Read full review)

Beautifully written, the novel maintains an almost dream-like pacing, and yet the novel itself is tightly-written — racking in at just 232 pages. Not a word seems to be wasted, and although the book covers some emotionally devastating territory, Sallis's tale is restrained and eloquent.
His Futile Preoccupations, Guy Savage, 2 August 2011 (Read full review)

This is an intricate, complex and poignant examination of three disconnected souls who somehow find consolation in each other despite remaining separate throughout the novel. It's a wildly courageous gambit, but Sallis is a sharp and proficient artisan who makes it all work.
The Cold Spot, Tom Piccirilli, 9 May 2011 (Read full review)


On Salt River...

Sublime... Sallis brilliantly uses flashbacks and tangential anecdotes, but it's the poetic prose ("blackbirds and crows crowded together at water's edge, covens of diminutive priests") and the richly described rural Southern backdrop that make this slim book such a rewarding read.
Publishers Weekly, starred review (Read full review)

As we come to expect from Sallis, Salt River is filled with insight, redemption, and tantalizing passages... unique and truthful.
Crime Time Magazine, Woody Haut, 5 December 2008 (Read full review)

Sallis gets every nuance of a small, dying town right... A meditation on life and death, with some quiet victories and a lot of unexplained occurrences along the way.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, Diana Pinckley, 13 February 2008 (Read full review)

Elegantly wrought prose... gritty direct prose with a poetic noir sensibility.
Lahontan Valley News, Kirk Robertson, 13 June 2008

A tremendous talent. Which authors will still be read fifty years from now? Whoever else makes the list, without a doubt Sallis's name will be on it.
Spinetingler Magazine, Sandra Ruttan, January 2008

Elegantly combining the raw grit of noir fiction and the lyrical intensity of Southern gothic, Salt River further confirms the author's prestigious reputation as exemplary poet, translator, novelist, and recipient of the Boucheron Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
BookLoons Reviews, Tim Davis (Read full review)

Sallis writes poetic rings around the subject...
New York Times, Marilyn Stasio, 13 January 2008 (Read full review)

In this slim, dark novel, SALT RIVER gives an unvarnished and unflinching look at the inevitability of death, the unfairness of life and man's ability to find some small measure of beauty in the midst of sorrow and pain. This is not an easy story to read, but it's one that is hard to forget.
Bookreporter.com, Donna Volkenannt, 23 January 2011 (Read full review)

James Sallis might be the "purest" writer of crime fiction in America today... his books are worth reading solely for what rises from the inspired use of language. Salt River starts out as crime fiction but ends up a beautifully rendered meditation on aging and mortality.
San Francisco Chronicle, Eddie Muller, 6 January 2008 (Read full review)

[Sallis] can convey as much information in one sentence as most authors convey in a paragraph ... Salt River is a memorable and beautifully realized novel which further enhances Sallis's reputation as one of the best contemporary noir writers out there.
Mostly Fiction Book Reviews, Mary Whipple, 6 January 2008 (Read full review)

[This] story, of life's joys and ravages, will especially resonate with anyone struggling with darkness at this cheery time of year.
Charlotte Observer, Salem MacKnee

"We just go on." These four words hold the power of simplicity and the musical ring of truth as only Sallis can deliver it — as he has done bravely, consistently, for the last few decades.
The Los Angeles Times, Sarah Weinman, 30 December 2007 (Read full review)

Salt River is a little beauty that has been cut, polished and crafted into something that sparkles like a rare gem. Few novels (of whatever length) have either the clarity or value of this one... Salt River packs the kind of firepower that really counts — the kind that touches the heart and revitalizes the soul.
The Mean Streets sneak preview, 15 November 2007

[Sallis] is a graceful writer who spins a poignant and powerful tale of a man attempting to cope with a fractured life. He brings to his thriller a lyrical style not often found in the genre.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, Robert Wade, 16 December 2007 (Read full review)

Salt River... is every bit as elegant as its predecessors. Turner's brutally honest investigation is heart-wrenching and memorable, as is this superb novel.
Mystery Lovers, L.M. (Read full review)

If you enjoy fine, minimalist prose and thoughtful, intelligent crime stories, you would be well advised to begin with the first in the series and read them all.
Associated Press, Bruce Desilva, 7 December 2007


On Potato Tree...

Marvelous imagery and syntax ... in Potato Tree a reader will find stories fraught with beauty, solitude, and strange moments of humor, which haunt and stun and bear returning to again and again.
Rain Taxi, Morris Collins, Summer 2007

...the well-chosen phrases and haunting images can linger on the mental palate... virtually all the selections have at least one memorable moment. Many successfully convey human loneliness and despair in a way that Cornell Woolrich would have found familiar.
Publishers Weekly, 26 February 26 2007


On Cripple Creek...

Cripple Creek is a crime novel with a warm-hearted, compassionate vibe at its core... a novel with the engine of a poem, an ode to loss.
The Compulsive Reader, Paul Kane, 27 August 2007 (Read full review)

...make[s] you raise your eyes off the printed page in silent admiration.
January Magazine, Stephen Miller, April 2006 (Read full review)

In addition to his masterly novels, Sallis is known for his work as a poet, and the lyrical beauty of his words shines through his pages. The story unfolds with the cadence of the down-home music that plays such an important part in the characters' lives, weaving stories from the past through the narrative of the present to create a harmonious melody. It's a crime that a writer this good isn't better known.
Chicago Sun-Times, David J. Montgomery, 2 April 2006

James Sallis weaves another rich tale, with plenty of that fine embroidery that makes his stories such pure reading pleasure.
Charlotte Observer, Salem MacKnee, 5 May 2006

In addition to his masterly novels, Sallis is known for his work as a poet, and the lyrical beauty of his words shines through his pages. The story unfolds with the cadence of the down-home music that plays such an important part in the characters' lives, weaving stories from the past through the narrative of the present to create a harmonious melody. It's a crime that a writer this good isn't better known.
Chicago Sun-Times, David J. Montgomery, 2 April 2006

James Sallis' novel — part taut thriller, part ode to small-town America — may remind readers in its lyrical style of James Lee Burke, with a dash of Tennessee Williams. By no means a conventional mystery, this should satisfy those looking for something different.
San Diego Union-Tribune, Robert Wade, 18 April 2006

Brilliant and poignant... Sallis has a poet's eye and ear, and his compact prose is redolent with the music (literal and otherwise) of rural Tennessee.
Seattle Times, Adam Woog, 9 April 2006

Spare but eloquent... [A] superior series.
New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio, 23 April 2006

Grade: A. Sallis is an excellent writer who plays the English language like a well-tuned country fiddle.
Rocky Mountain News, Jane Dickinson, 7 April 2006

Sallis has succeeded in meeting the challenge of penning a worthy and delicately written successor to Cypress Grove.
This Week, Craig McDonald, 13 April 2006 (Read full review)

...characters to engage the mind and heart and some of the most flavorful writing crime fiction has to offer.
Kirkus Reviews

Sallis is really on a roll. ...the superb second entry in his new Turner series.
Booklist, Bill Ott

Poet and master storyteller Sallis has a wonderful command of the English language, which makes his every book an experience to savor. Highly recommended.
Library Review, Thomas L. Kilpatrick


On Drive...

A tale of crime, cars, and chaos, Drive does not disappoint. James Sallis' book is an intricate, weaving adventure that crosses state lines and moral boundaries... Sallis crafts a work of dark, dirty, fun noir that also manages to transcend the genre.
Modern Times Magazine, Wayne Shutsky, 6 May 2013 (Read full review)

If Camus had been at all interested in the crime or noir genre, then you could imagine he might produce something vaguely comparable to James Sallis' novel, Drive.
This is Mild Internet Presence, Declan Tan, 22 December 2011 (Read full review)

Sallis creates an intriguing, enigmatic anti-hero... Once again, wordmaster Sallis wastes no words, and while the story is lean, it's haunting and will dig in under your skin.
His Futile Preoccupations, Guy Savage, 20 October 2011 (Read full review)

Drive is a stylistic tour de force. Every moment in the story is carefully chosen by Sallis to reveal those parts of the story and of Driver's life that resonate with intensity and insight. Like a poet carefully deliberating then choosing the right word, the one that will have multiple meanings and reveal hidden depths under the guise of perfect clarity, Sallis tells the story of enigmatic Driver with a surgical precision.... The cover of the trade paperback version is covered with blurbs that exhort one to buy this book. There are times when such praise is unwarranted or hyperbolic in nature; this is not one of those times.
MysteryBookSpot, Brian Lindenmuth

The best noir writing is pared down like good poetry: deceptively plain prose, surface details substituting for interior monologue; character revealed through action and subtext. (Only one Chandleresque metaphor, as Driver flips through an Irish novel: "Its author peered out squinting from the photograph on the inside back cover like some life form newly dredged into sunlight," which has a beat and you can dance to it.) Sallis has the confidence in the spine of his story to hold the reader as he strolls through Driver's past (we only know him through his raison d'etre: "I drive. That's all I do")... Drive is a sweet, tight read. Roll around in the mud a while. You'll be glad you did. Highly recommended.
Bookslut, Brian Dunn, November 2006 (Read full review)

This is what diversionary entertainment is all about!
BlogCritics, Mel Odom, 15 November 2006 (Read full review)

Fast cars, guns and babes. Just my cup of tea.
Independent on Sunday (London), Mark Timlin, 25 June 2006

Sallis's treatment is minimalist, stylish, and all the more evocative for it. Essential noir existentialism.
The Guardian (London), Maxim Jakubowski, 17 June 2006

Sallis creates vivid images in very few words and his taut, pared down prose is distinctive and powerful. The result is a small masterpiece.
Daily Telegraph (London), Susanna Yager, 2 June 2006

His most accessible novel, a beautifully controlled, lean but far from skeletal literary gem... guaranteed to keep a reader enthralled.
OC Metro, Dick Lochte, 8 December 2005

"Drive" is full of sly humor, poetic details and plenty of rude violence... The novel is a terrific ride.
Los Angeles Times, Scott M. Morris, 3 February 2006 (Read full review)

If spare and elegant writing, a breakneck pace and a noir flavor are more to your taste, go for Drive... This one's faster than a NASCAR champ.
New Orleans Times-Picayune, Diana Pinckley

[Drive] packs a wallop that far outweighs its page count. Sallis injects so much meaning and emotion into his carefully selected words that the power of his prose exceeds its volume. Writing in such a compact, constricted format has energized Sallis's work, making "Drive" as taut and gripping a novel as he has ever written. For those who have not yet had to chance to read one of crime fiction's most underappreciated writers, now is the perfect opportunity.
Boston Globe, David J. Montgomery, 27 December 2005 (Read full review)

Sallis doesn't let his fans down with this semi-noir tour de force. The excellently crafted thriller is fast-paced and as cool as one hundred and twenty pages can get. Drive transcends the simplistic label of revenge or double-cross into a fantastic hardboiled noir with colorful characters and prose that jumps off the page. Excellent book.
Curled Up With A Good Book, Bobby Blades, 2005 (Read full review)

Sallis' slim novel Drive underscores what power this author commands with spare, gemlike prose, brisk action and a Camus-like hero. Sallis says all he needs to -- and more -- in just 158 pages.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Oline H. Cogdill, 6 November 2005

A dark, poetic action tale that can't help but draw comparison to noir books of the '40s and '50s.
Tampa Tribune, H.P. Albarelli, 23 October 2005 (Read full review)

Some novels are said to be plot-driven, others character-driven. While it provides both of the above, this short novel is primarily style-driven, with superb fiction noir prose and a fine sense of locale, be it Phoenix, Los Angeles, or Brooklyn.
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Jury Box, Jon L. Breen

James Sallis is one of our best writers. Period. [Drive is] spare, it's rich and it's knock-out good writing.
I Love a Mystery Newsletter, Andi Shechter, September-October 2005

A compact, beautifully written little noir gem.
Seattle Times, Adam Woog, 9 October 2005 (Read full review)

Imagine the black heart of Jim Thompson beating in the poetic chest of James Sallis and you'll have some idea of the beauty, sadness and power of "Drive"... "Drive" is short — a novella — but has more thought, feeling and murderous energy than books twice its length.
Chicago Tribune, Dick Adler, 2 October 2005

James Sallis has written a perfect piece of noir fiction.
New York Times, Marilyn Stasio, 25 September 2005 (Read full review)

A taut page-turner ... Sallis's lean tale (158 pages) and flat-voiced prose are refreshing, even startling... It's a lovely piece of work that makes you wish some other writers would take lessons from him.
Washington Post, Paul Skenazy, 25 September 2005 (Read full review)

James Sallis' riveting novella reads the way a Tarantino or Soderbergh neo-noir plays, artfully weaving through Driver's haunted memory and fueled by confident storytelling and keen observations about moviemaking, low-life living, and, yes, driving. Short and not so sweet, Drive is one lean, mean, masterful machine. Grade: A
Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Jensen, 18 September 2005

A taut novella inspired by the noir fiction of the 1930s and '40s.
Arizona Republic, Kerry Lengel, 18 September 2005 (Read full review)

The language always sparkles in the works of James Sallis. Drive also benefits from haunting descriptions and turns of phrase... Bottom line: Drive is a chopped and channelled, foot-to-the-firewall, hardboiled ride.
ThisWeek, Craig McDonald, 1 September 2005 (Read full review)

...masterfully convoluted neo-noir... Sallis gives us his most tightly written mystery to date, worthy of comparison to the compact, exciting oeuvre of French noir giant Jean-Patrick Manchette.
Publishers Weekly, 1 August 2005

 

On City Equal to my Desire...

This satisfying collection of dark dream parables fans out a fistful of snapshots from times and places foreign to us — yet unsettlingly familiar.
Booklist, Frank Sennett, November 2004

By turns dark, apocalyptic, comic, melancholy, surreal and provocative... his always lyrical language and eye for telling detail dominates.
This Week, Craig McDonald, 28 October 2004 (Read full review)

Wonderful characters and character interactions are Sallis's strengths, but we also find lovely language and beautiful imagery... His characters are alive and his tales stir both the emotions and the imagination. I highly recommend them.
Razored Zen blog, Charles Gramlich, 19 March 2008 (Read full review)

...almost irresistibly readable... expect to be surprised! But once you read the first selection, one thing won't surprise you — the high quality of the writing on display here. Sallis is a true original, and he deserves to be read by fans of speculative fiction as much as by fans of mystery fiction. Readers in the market for a powerful collection of unpredictable short fiction should start lining up now.
The Agony Column, Rick Kleffel, 2 August 2004 (Read full review)

 

On Cypress Grove...

Sallis' sublime meditation regarding rural southern crime and the force the past exerts on the present... Cypress Grove is also the only novel published in 2003 to inspire not just a second and a third, but a fourth reading.
ThisWeek, Craig McDonald, 19 August 2004 (Read full review)

Sallis's deceptively easy style disguises the skill with which he has produced a satisfyingly complete portrait of a man's life.
Daily Telegraph (London), Susanna Yager, 22 December 2003

[These works] illustrate the author's intimate understanding of nostalgia as a smoking gun loaded with fear, wistfulness, ephemerality and deep mystery. The novel's wry minimalism communes with profound insights... At his best, which lies clearly at the genius level, Sallis uses language as an uneasy echo of time, a palimpsest-like reservoir of psychic overload. The novel proves that the solid shadows of crime fiction can overflow the cave of categorization.
Rain Taxi v.8 n.3, Kevin Carollo

We float along and can't let go because Sallis won't let go of us as we are hooked into the protagonist named Turner, an ex-con, former cop and psychotherapist who has come to unknowingly redeem himself in a small town in Tennessee — between Memphis and nowhere... With spare prose and dialogue Sallis has refined the art of illuminating certain universal truths.
Arizona Republic, Angela Cara Pancrazio

Superbly written and featuring outstanding dialogue, this novel earns the label of an outstanding example of noir with a backwoods flair.
Warren-Trumbull County Public Library newsletter

[Sallis] is one of the best writers publishing today. His work is beautifully written, melodic; simple sentences speak volumes... just plain haunting. Bewitching from the beginning.
A Novel View, Tammy Michaels

Sallis knows his music, knows his dialogue, and knows one helluva lot about people. Like the excellent Lew Griffin books, Cypress Grove is filled with all of these things in the wonderfully brief but telling style Sallis has brought to all of his poetry and fiction...James Sallis just keeps "pouring his heart" into every word. Listen.
Watermark Books, Bruce Jacobs

Sallis' atmospheric, poetic prose delineates the complexities of human relationships, often between the lines. Though his characters build from loss, this story is less dark than previous novels, but his sense of place is as deeply orienting as ever. ...A fine novel.
Lynn Harnett

Sallis is back in the mystery game with "Cypress Grove," which features another complex protagonist and a story brimming with Southern atmosphere... related in gems of short, evocative prose. Although welcome news to Sallis' coterie of loyalists, "Cypress Grove" should attract an even broader audience for the author's visually tantalizing, astute observations on crime and the human condition.
Los Angeles Times, Paula Woods, 31 August 2003 (Read full review)

Sallis, whose expansive body of work also includes poetry, essays and criticism, masterfully mixes the language of the South with delightful characterization.
Columbus Dispatch, Alan Johnson

One of the best-written mysteries of our time.
BookBitch, Geoffrey R. Hamlin

Sallis is a writer worth discovering.
San Antonio Express-News, Steve Bennett

...[a] masterfully composed novel ...[Sallis'] interest lies elsewhere than in the wit-matching puzzle at the heart of the detective genre. It lies higher.
Boston Globe, Andy Solomon

Sallis again demonstrates that he's a master of any environment. Here he sketches in quick strokes the feel and flavor of the small-town country South, and he gets every line right.

Told in the hushed tones of quiet observation, Cypress Grove ... is a tone poem of redemption.
NoirNovels.com, Steve Nester

Turner is a dense and complex character, and Sallis takes us on a wild ride through his past, ending with a great plot twist.
The Globe and Mail

Sallis is one of our best detective genre authors and these three books [Black Hornet, Moth, and Cypress Grove] are gems.
Bookviews, Alan Caruba

[An] affectingly rendered, elegiac tale... Sallis secures his position as a smart and seductive writer whose lines and characters linger long after you put aside his books. Arguably the best so-called crime novel so far this year, Cypress Grove may also qualify as one of 2003's top 10 novels, period.
ThisWeek, Craig McDonald

Sallis writes some of the most intelligent mysteries out there today.
Charlotte Observer, Salem MacKnee

Almost every page produces a sentence, phrase or paragraph so deliciously right that readers will want to reread it. Sallis fans will pounce on this one. If you're not acquainted with his work, this is a fine place to begin.
The Plain Dealer, Les Roberts

As Turner's memories are unlocked, so are his feelings — and his language... Although he went out to find a killer, Turner earns his redemption by finding his own lost voice.
The New York Times, Marilyn Stasio

Intriguing...Sallis's quirky sense of plot rhythms and careful prose make this an outstanding and unpredictable literary thriller.
The Seattle Times

James Sallis swept me away... I couldn't put CYPRESS GROVE down.
Roundtable Reviews, Tracy Farnsworth

This compelling book is beautifully written. It flows naturally off the pages like a lazy Southern river on a hot, steamy summer's night ... Its style, story-telling, psychological elements, are all masterful... a book to be savoured.
Mystery Review, Nigel Tappin

This author loves language... whatever he says captivates you. This is a quiet story, but one told brilliantly. The author ls a wonderful storyteller.
I Love a Mystery Newsletter, Andi Shechter

Sallis combines an intensely introspective hero with a detail-rich plot... A strong series debut from one of the genre's most original voices.
Booklist

A beautifully written tale of murder and redemption.
Rocky Mountain News, Jane Dickinson

Sallis...pulls off the story with panache...fast and stylish.
Entertainment Weekly

As always with James Sallis his is bewitching from the beginning. Cypress Grove is one to add to the collection or the one to start with, either way you can't own one Salllis without wanting to own them all. And I am speaking from experience. StoryTeller: A Novel View, Tammy Michaels

Brilliant, disturbing... Sallis seems completely comfortable in this solid, lyrical and very human-scale mystery. Fans who appreciate his more quirky touches won't be disappointed... This one may well draw a larger readership to his work.
Publishers Weekly

Sallis shines again...appealingly complex characters, and a prose style to savor.
Kirkus Reviews

 

On Ghost of a Flea...

The narrative enters the intersections of observation and memory, of dream and confused perception, of delusion and hallucination and hyper-awareness. Because of Griffin's own varied experience and the texture of this particular narrative, the fragmented speech of the dispossessed and the demented is juxtaposed seamlessly with the very succinct and incisive comments of a broad range of writers, from novelists and poets to songwriters and social observers...It is a truly compelling, seemingly effortlessly complex story...one of the great contemporary novels on the passing of a series protagonist and of the milieu which has been made his own. Ghost of a Flea is much more thought-provoking and soul-shaping than much of what passes for "serious" fiction.
Martin Kich, The Mystery Review (Read full review)

James Sallis's Lew Griffin series has distinguished itself by the moodiness of its New Orleans atmosphere, the jagged elegance of its narrative style and the expansiveness of its anti-hero's literary citations... Dead men don't tell tales, or so the saying goes. But the tale told by this one is extraordinary.
The Washington Post, Maureen Corrigan, 27 January 2002

The poet Sallis betrays himself on every page with an inordinate desire to capture a nuance of light, essence of cat or waver of a farewell. His prose style is witty, elliptical and heady with image and allusion; his bedrock underlying purpose is nothing less than an exploration of meaning and identity ... "Ghost of a Flea" bears the marks of a fierce and original writer working at full power.
L.A. Times

Sallis writes as much as anything about the splendour of books, and the splendour of life and people. He writes about the search for meaning in words and in faces, gestures, touches, kisses, words shared, exchanges all of this thrown up and examined and found both life-affirming and wanting at the same time. Of course all great Noir is essentially existential, and Sallis writes the poetry of the weary existential outsider with a sparkling mix of the coolest prose in the warmest of lonely hearts.
Tangents, Alistair Fitchett, 2001 (Read full review)

...this is a superb book: beautiful, lyrical, moving... Ghost of a Flea sets an impressive yardstick
Barcelona Review (Read full review)

Allusive and stylish, this stark metaphysical landscape will leave a resounding impression.
Guardian, Maxim Jakubowski, 1 February 2002 (Read full review)

...a stunning book...literate, intelligent, deeply moving, his exploration of what it is to be human is incisive, heartbreaking yet ultimately uplifting.
Tangled Web UK, Cath Staincliffe, March 2002 (Read full review)

 

On Chester Himes: A Life...

Sallis' book achieves that perfect biographer's balance between admiration and honesty.
Chicago Tribune

[Sallis'] keen appreciation for Himes's work gives the book an understanding many literary biographies lack.
The Santa Barbara Independent

James Sallis' new biography, "Chester Himes: A Life," deserves three reviews, one for its story of an American life, a story about race that, as Himes would have it, is also about life and family, without race; one for Sallis' fair analysis of Himes' work, setting a context for his triumphs and his misses; and then the last review, to praise without reserve a book every young writer should be given before starting out, as a warning. As a book about the difficulty of writing, which is about a man who wrote because in no other sphere was he free, this biography is at its strongest.
L.A. Times

Smart, conscientious, often stylish biography ... As a biographer Sallis is admirably tentative about motive and explanation, always vigilant to the limits of his knowledge, research and judgment. He never conceals his occasional reliance on Himes's fiction as a source of information; striding amid the contradictions of his subject's life, Sallis tends to advance provocative questions rather than reductive conclusions.
New York Times

It is hard to understand why Himes has remained neglected for so long: it is just as hard to believe that a biography as good as this one won't bring him the attention he deserves. Sallis provides everything from genuine enthusiasm and critical clarity to an affection for the least-affectionate aspects of his subject. As a result, Chester Himes: A Life is as intelligent, and as much fun to read, as a book by Himes himself. There is no higher praise.
The Times

 

On Gently into the Land of Meateaters...

In this clear and poetic collection of personal essays, Sallis ... recounts the beauty and pain he has experienced as a writer and as a human being. Best known for his Lew Griffin detective novels, Sallis has a talent for conveying sadness and humor simultaneously. In a piece entitled "Literary Life,'' he claims, "I distinctly remember being happy for almost 5 minutes in the winter of 1976.'' Striking the same ambivalence, he continues, "Every day I receive letters that say, You write so well, so beautifully. And every day I send letters that say, Where is my money?'' Whether describing the beans he savored directly from the can as a starving writer or remembering a few words shared with a woman in the laundromat, Sallis is unfailingly honest, intelligent, and without pretense in his recollections. As for the human characters he describes, their brief dialogues are reminiscent of Raymond Carver's work, as is Sallis's provocative minimalist style. Each piece is carefully crafted and understated, and the author roots his ideas in philosophy and an appreciation of nature. Rain, tall trees, and poetry play recurrent roles. Many of the essays are elegiac and cathartic, dedicated to individuals who have touched his life: his first wife, his father, a young friend who suffered from cystic fibrosis, and a high school music teacher. He communes intimately with memory, with those he loves and has loved, and with his own writing, revisiting buried emotions, unresolved relationships, and unpublished works. In "Temporary Life,'' for example, Sallis reworks painful material from a manuscript written after his wife attempted suicide: the story is a touching mix of old and new work, as a writer calls upon old feelings and the words he uses to express them. From literary and emotional standpoints, the essays are charming and memorable.
Kirkus Reviews

 

On Time's Hammers...

Alternately chilling and manic, always bizarre, the stories show Sallis at his best.
The Times

Sallis's blackly humorous science fiction explores both druggy surrealism and philosophical paradox, offering us visions of fantastical possible worlds which are as wise as they are weird. Like Jorge Luis Borges, he knows how to extend a metaphor until it illustrates how insect-like and insignificant human endeavour must seem when measured against cosmic time. He warns us that sooner or later time's hammers will smash everything.
Guardian

 

On the Lew Griffin novels...

Sallis take us on a journey we won't soon forget.... [he] is one of the true masters of the game. His Lew Griffin series is a form of penance for the soul, and something that reminds us what it means to be human.
Knucksline, Charlie Stella

Anyone who loves good writing should read these books (and this writer). They're thoughtful — although not light on the action — and well written expositions on the U.S. now, where we've been, and where we're going. Do not miss out.
The Annotated Browser - Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop

Brimming with eloquent musings and well-phrased truths, Sallis' 'The Long-Legged Fly' starts a truly sensational series.
Agony Column Book Reviews, Terry D'Auray, 2003 (Read full review)

Beautifully spare, atmospheric novels... You can smell the streets of New Orleans, hang out in the dives, see the grand, collapsing architecture of the French Quarter. You can feel the humidity rotting Lew's wooden bungalow, see the roaches scurrying when he flips the light switch in his kitchen, taste the muddy café au lait he brews, and feel his slight sense of relief when he plops down in a chair to enjoy the two things he says he's good at: drinking and literature. Griffin is always a vehicle for a larger truth.
Austin American-Statesman, Bob Elder

It doesn't surprise me that James Sallis is also a poet. Sallis excels the way few writers do. His stories are lush — his use of language is engaging and rich and alive.
I Love a Mystery Newsletter, Andi Shechter

My hat is off to James Sallis for penning a poignant, riveting series that keeps me breathless.
Roundtable Reviews, Tracy Farnsworth

These are stories the world should know about.
The Scotsman

Poetic, complex and multidimensional, James Sallis' crime novels about New Orleans detective Lew Griffin ... are unlike any you are likely to crack open.
Los Angeles Times

Richly atmospheric, haunting, utterly compelling, the Lew Griffin novels are really cool. James Sallis is an outstanding crime writer - an outstanding writer period.
Frances McDormand

James Sallis is doing some of the most interesting and provocative work in the field of private eye fiction. His New Orleans is richly atmospheric and darker than noir.
Lawrence Block

 

On James Sallis & his oeuvre...

Sallis' writing hovers just at the edge of brilliance.
Booklist

James Sallis's extraordinary fiction is distinguished by its honesty and meticulous artistry. With his highly imagistic stories, he has regularly displayed a finely honed mastery of sophisticated literary techniques and sharply etched psychological portraits.
Twentieth-Century Science Fiction Writers

Sallis is one of the finest crime writers around ... If you like your novels on a higher level, Sallis is your man.
The Times

Sallis is a fine talent, introspective, sardonic, a master of quick characterization and narrative compression.
Buffalo News

Sallis is a rare find ... a fine prose stylist with an interest in moral struggle and a gift for the lacerating evocation of loss.
New York Newsday

A strong and inventive writer with a certain sensitivity to language as well as an understanding of the deeper workings of the psyche.
Review of Contemporary Fiction

Sallis is a masterful writer, vigorously exploring the seemingly inexhaustible territory of the post-modern detective novel.
New Orleans Times-Picayune

James Sallis is one of the best writers in the United States.
Sue Walker

Poetry smuggled in at the back door. Sallis, an accomplished musician, has a beautiful sense of the pitch and rhythm of language. He knows precisely how to make use of what he calls 'the battery of affects available: alliteration, syllabics, alexandrines, slant rhymes, simple euphony'.
Iain Sinclair

Then there's James Sallis - he's right up there, one of the best. It is quite possible that speaking of Jim Sallis in the same tone as Poe and Dostoevski is not overblowing on my part. His early work indicates a mind and talent of uncommon dimensions.
Harlan Ellison

Ever among the most unconventional and interesting writers of crime fiction.
Kirkus Reviews

Sallis might be one of the best writers in America.
Les Roberts

 


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