Literacy 2024: Book 4: Killer, Come Back to Me

A collection of Ray Bradbury’s crime stories

Book
Killer, Come Back to Me: The Crime Stories of Ray Bradbury

Synopsis
To commemorate what would have been Bradbury’s 100th birthday, a collection of his stories for pulp crime magazines throughout the 1940s and early 50s

Pros

  • Includes a forward to put the stories into context, as well as an afterword written by Bradbury himself for an earlier-published collection of several of the same stories, with his characteristically clear-headed assessment of his own work (and his work ethic)
  • Thoughtful organization of the stories, so that you can see Bradbury’s unique voice, along with his particular interests, become more and more pronounced over the course of the book
  • Fascinating pair of companion stories, originally published in different pulp magazines, that describe the day of a crime, one from the perspective of the victim, the other in the mind of the criminal
  • Another interesting pair of companion stories bring in Bradbury’s interest in science fiction, exploring two implications of a company called Marionettes, Inc. making lifelike android versions of humans
  • A highlight is a fascinating story of a man’s obsessive need to clean up the scene of a murder he’d committed
  • The stories incorporate Bradbury’s interest in horror, sci-fi, and fantasy-middle-America world-building
  • Once he sheds the pulp formula, the stories become fascinating psychological profiles that remain relatable across decades.

Cons

  • The bulk of the stories are fairly standard pulp fiction until Bradbury’s unique voice becomes apparent โ€” they’re still well-written, but lack the spark of his best work
  • Horror and crime/suspense stories are a good match, but the inclusion of sci-fi stories feels a bit jarring and out of place
  • I would’ve appreciated an explicit date of first publication with each story, so that we could better place it in Bradbury’s overall body of work

Verdict
Interesting for fans of Ray Bradbury, who want to see a side of his writing that’s not quite like the stuff that he’s better known for. In his afterword, he acknowledges that his crime stories are fine, but don’t come from the same passion as his other stories, and they don’t really capture his unique voice. This shouldn’t be anybody’s first exposure to Bradbury’s writing, but it is an excellent demonstration of how the voice and style that we love actually developed.

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