Willnot, James Sallis, No Exit, £7.99
Willow Walk, SJI Holliday, Black & White, £7.99
James Sallis is surely one of the most diverse and skilled writers around. Most famous for his crime novels, particularly Drive which was adapted into a film, the American author has also written umpteen short-story collections, books of essays and poems, musicology and translations, biographies and journalism. In amongst the crime novels there have been exemplary detective series and superb standalone noir tales, all imbued with a tremendous humanity and a skilful economy of language.
And his latest is no different. Willnot is set in small-town rural America, and begins like a conventional murder mystery, with the discovery of some bodies in the local woods. But what follows is a sly and subtle look at every aspect of small-town life through the eyes of Lamar Hale, the local GP and surgeon.
Hale is a terrific creation, a compassionate man trying his best in the face of increasing pressure, attempting to balance his work with his home life, along with numerous other moral and emotional dilemmas that get thrown at him.
Chief amongst these is the return to town of Bobby Lowndes, a young war veteran with a troubled past and the skills of a trained killer. The FBI soon turn up in Lowndes’ wake but he disappears from hospital before they can catch up with him, after being shot by an anonymous sniper.