Blue World

Blue World: written by Robert R. McCammon: containing “Yellowjacket Summer”, “Makeup”, “Doom City”, “Nightcrawlers”, “Yellachile’s Cage”, “I Scream Man!”, “He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door”, “Chico”, “Night Calls the Green Falcon”, “Pin”, “The Red House”, “Something Passed by” and “Blue World” (1981-89; collected 1989): Superior collection of Robert McCammon’s 1980’s non-novel-length work (though the title story is nearly the length of a short novel). The collection encompasses psychological, science-fictional, and supernatural horror, along with two works of suspense (“Blue World” and “Night Calls the Green Falcon”).

One of the standouts is “Nightcrawlers,” filmed for an episode of the 1980’s Twilight Zone revival. A Viet Nam veteran walks into a highway diner, and bad things happen. It’s an excellent bit of science-fictional horror, and also seems to be the precursor to a novel that never materialized.

Many of the other stories are set in McCammon’s home-state of Alabama, generally in small towns you really don’t want to visit (“Yellowjacket Summer,” “He’ll Come Knocking at Your Door,” and “Something Passed By.”). The latter is an extremely effective bit of Cthulhuesque cosmic horror that dwells on the effects of a dimensional incursion without worrying about the how, why, or who.

“Night Calls the Green Falcon” is another stand-out that would make a terrific movie. An aging, forgotten, and psychologically damaged former star of a children’s superhero serial about crimefighter the Green Falcon finds himself dropped into a real-life mystery that he initially has no real desire to tackle.

But tackle it he does, sometimes literally, dressed in the faded remnants of his movie costume. The story strikes a nice balance between the childish idealism of the superhero and the realities of the real world that’s much more heart-breaking (and ultimately heart-warming) than the vast majority of adult superhero comics of the last thirty years.

Finally, there’s the title novella, a plunge into a hard-boiled world of porn, sex, and serial killers with a Roman Catholic priest and a strangely innocent female porn star as its two protagonists. It verges on hard-core at points, but it’s ultimately a story about conventional and unconventional morality set in San Francisco’s famous Tenderloin district. McCammon’s deft third-person narration is really on display here as the narrative moves seamlessly from the thoughts and actions of one character to another and another and then back again. Recommended.

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