Monday, October 17, 2011

The Killer Is Dying by James Sallis

Three males converge:

Christian, Vietnam veteran, goes by the nickname he received while serving in Vietnam. A hired hit man with a terminal disease, Christian has a contract on John Rankin but someone else attempts to murder Rankin before Christian can shoot him. Already living longer than expected, Christian wants to understand the meaning of his life as a contract killer. “How many dead and dying men had he stood above or beside? And death, finally, wasn’t all that interesting. What was interesting, what never failed to surprise and amaze him, is the way life always holds on, whatever the circumstances, how it just won’t let go.”

Jimmie, abandoned by his parents, lives on the toys he buys and sells on the Internet, living a life he never expected to last. “At first he had waited, living off what was left, canned food, cereal, expecting someone to show up at the door, a neighbor school officials, police. But no one did. So then, still expecting to be exposed any day, he’d gone on to work with what he had. Now he found it difficult to imagine another life, another way of living.” Jimmie learns while living on his own that, “Your day needs structure.” He has built a life for himself by volunteering at the local retirement home and Mrs. Flores, his neighbor can be counted on in an emergency.

Detective Graves and Sayles are investigating the shooting of John Rankin. Sayles’ wife, Josie is dying and has gone into hospice care. Sayles says “Strength was not about overcoming things. Strength was about accepting them.”

Sayles is unknowingly looking for Christian, while Jimmie dreams about Christian’s memories.

James Sallis: Drive, currently in theaters and The Killer is Dying, his latest book, has a website:

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