Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Steinhauer

Olen Steinhauer is the writer I mention first when people ask me "Who's new and good?" I raved about his latest,

in my Chicago column and Publishers Weekly,

spoke highly of

on this blog, and thought I'd have to wait until Book 5 in his series for another blast of his subtly ferocious talent. Then I discovered that something called Amazon Shorts (not an underwear store) has two Steinhauer stories for a fantastic price.

Both are sad and frightening slices of the meat which would nourish his novels. In Half-Lives, he writes about a housing project in Bucharest: "Take an American 'fifties-era urban renewal complex on its final legs, where wild mixedbreed dogs sniff through piles of rubble and garbage that lie between the scarred towers; where burned-out Pintos (here: Dacias) sit tireless on pitted gravel courtyards gone feral while smokeblackened children climb over the piles, teasing the dogs with sticks then kicking them in the head. When you look from your window, instead of sky you see the grids of crumbling facades of the other concrete towers, rusty lines of drying clothes, smashed windows, old women staring out at nothing. This is Bloc 5."