This collection of short stories includes, as the centrepiece is a new Banks novella called “Like a Virgin.” The other stories in the book, two of them also featuring Banks, are “Cornelius Jubb,” “The Magic of Your Touch,” “The Eastvale Ladies’ Poker Circle,” “The Ferryman’s Beautiful Daughter,” “Walking the Dog,” “Blue Christmas,” “Shadows on the Water,” “The Cherub Affair,” “The Price of Love” and “Birthday Dance.”
For someone who considers himself primarily a novelist, I seem to have written rather a lot of short stories. I have also been very fortunate in that my publishers want to publish them in collection form, which induces a retrospective frame of mind in me as I gather these tales together and prepare them for publication.
Most of the stories in this collection were written at the request of one editor or another. I know that sounds rather mercenary, and that, in the Romantic view of art, the writer is supposed to work from pure inspiration. But I think of the stories as challenges, and sometimes a challenge can bring out the best in person, or at least it can bring to the surface something he didn’t know he had, something he hadn’t explored before. And that is very much the case in this collection.
I’m not going to go into details here about the content or origins of any of these stories. I’m saving that for the afternotes because I don’t want to spoil anything for those readers who, like me, want to know as little as possible about a story or novel they are about to read. I will say, though, that some of these requests for stories opened up new directions for me, took me places I would not normally have gone, and forced me to dig deep into areas where I might never have ventured left to my own devices.
In some cases, I simply set off into the dark without even a light to guide my way, moving from one word to the next and letting the story find itself. In others, I thought and fretted about the story for months, shaped it in my mind, despaired over it, scrapped it, started again, and when I was finally driven by the demands of a deadline to put fingers to keyboard, it came out as something different, often something better than I could ever have hoped for.
I have said before that I find short stories difficult to write, and that is still the case. The discipline is exacting and the amount of space in which I sometimes feel I have to manoeuvre feels quite claustrophobic. The bits I have to leave out would probably make a novel. But the satisfaction level is high. I remember when I used to write mostly poetry, I would sometimes work for weeks trying to get a poem right, especially when I began to value form and structure as much as, if not more than, Romantic self-expression or post-modernist confessional. Everyone who has ever written a poem knows that to make it work you sometimes have to sacrifice your best line or image, and working on a short story is far more akin to that process than is writing a novel, which in some ways is a constant search for more things to put in.
So here are the stories. I hope you enjoy them. People often ask me whether they should start with the first Inspector Banks novel or with one of the later ones, and I usually answer that it doesn’t matter unless you are the kind of person who has to start at the beginning. The stories are not presented chronologically, and nor did I agonise over their order according to some secret code or system of symbolism known only to me. Please feel free to jump in wherever you wish.
“As ever with Robinson, the plots, the characterizations, the dialogue and the broody, angry mournfulness are impeccably present in all the stories, long and short.” Toronto Sun; read full review.
“The writing is, as always with Robinson, colourful and evocative, and the characters are brilliant in their unpersonable way. This book is a must for Peter Robinson completists, of course, but also for anyone who appreciates good stories well told.” Globe and Mail; read full review.
“All in all, this is a splendid collection, one that the reader can dip into just about anyway in the confident expectation of finding something to entertain or promote reflection.” reviewingtheevidence.com; read full review.
“Bestseller Robinson (All the Colors of Darkness) proves that Yorkshire coppers aren’t his only worthwhile subjects in this outstanding story collection. Crime in its myriad forms runs throughout, from an American GI falsely accused of rape during WWII in “Cornelius Jubb” to a detective remembering his childhood role in bringing down a gang of robbers in “The Price of Love.” The settings range from the familiar Eastvale of the Inspector Banks series to Robinson’s current home in Toronto. He even tries his hand at noir in “The Cherub Affair,” complete with a down-on-his-luck PI and a beautiful woman in need of help. Banks fans will be delighted with the inclusion of two short stories and two novellas starring the Yorkshire detective chief inspector, one of which, “Like a Virgin,” is original to this book. For those unfamiliar with Robinson’s work, this serves as an excellent introduction to one of the best voices in contemporary crime fiction.” Publishers’ Weekly starred review.
“Close on the heels of Robinson’s latest Inspector Alan Banks mystery (All the Colors of Darkness) comes this collection, with nine stories (two of them featuring Banks) bracketed by two Banks novellas. With the exception of the final novella, all were written at the request of an editor, usually for a crime anthology published in the last six years, often taking Robinson in new directions as he tackled a literary form that he finds more difficult than a novel. While the emphasis is on police procedurals, at which Robinson excels, there are elements of horror and the supernatural in “The Magic of Your Touch,” with its bow to Poe, and explorations of the human condition, as in “Shadows on the Water,” a story of honor and courage told by a World War II soldier in a foxhole. In the final novella, “Like a Virgin,” which brings Banks up-to-date, the dogged inspector learns that justice delayed need not be justice denied. VERDICT This collection distinguishes itself from recent crime anthologies by emphasizing Inspector Banks; the final novella is a deeply satisfying procedural that hints at the possibility of Banks’s renewing an old romantic relationship. Until the next Banks mystery comes along, fans can get their fix here.” Library Journal