BIRDS LANDING by Ernest J. Finney


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Eight stories that are readable but seldom fresh. Characters living on the edge of squalor and violence seem to be Finney's familiar and often plot-dominated material here. The punned title of ""The Divine Dealer"" refers to a reformed preacher who makes his living (rather well) as a dealer in old furniture; when his congregation shows signs of begrudging him his outside income, he captivates them anew by confessing from the pulpit to his old life as a drunkard, fornicator, and wife beater. ""Bed of Roses"" tells of a car thief who wants revenge against his ex-wife for running off with his money while he was in prison (he finds her, but the reader isn't told what happens then); in ""Nights and Days,"" a fatherless and sexually insecure boy works at an all-night store, becomes enamored of guns, and may or may not (again, not said) survive a holdup in which his boss is killed; and in ""Night Life,"" a faded cocktail waitress loses her chance for a second marriage when the candidate is shot in yet another stickup. ""The Investigator,"" old stuff but well detailed, is about a middle-aged man of sexually questionable inclinations who spies on adulterous couples to gather material for divorce suits; ""The All-American's wife"" tells of an ex-basketball player on the verge of collapse; and the title story is a complex rural chronicle of an orphaned boy who seeks his way among the members of a semi-degenerate extended family of commercial (and unscrupulous) duck hunters. In ""Lot No, 17,"" two young women find their lives drawn further apart after they discover valuable jewels in a boxed lot of old clothing they've bought at a customs auction. Conventionally derived stories, five of which have appeared elsewhere, including two in Sewanee Review, and one of which (""The Investigator"") was reprinted in the O. Henry prize volume for 1967.

Pub Date: July 31st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press