DILLINGER IN HOLLYWOOD: New and Selected Short Stories

John Sayles, Author . Nation Books $13.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-56025-632-8

Though Sayles is best known as the writer/director of acclaimed independent films (Lone Star ; Matewan ), he's also an accomplished novelist (Union Dues ; Los Gusanos ). In this engaging collection, his first in 25 years, he reminds us of his skill in shorter forms. In the title story, Son Bishop, an ex-horse wrangler and stunt man, works at a nursing home populated by the relics of Hollywood's Golden Age, one of whom claims he "used to be" John Dillinger. "Your geriatrics and horses hold a lot in common," Bishop muses. "[T]hey're high-strung, they bite and kick sometimes, and they're none of them too big on bowel control." The more substantial and subtle "Casa de Los Babys" (the genesis of his eponymous movie?) follows a group of American women waiting to adopt babies in a Latin American city, as well as a maid at their crumbling hotel, a nurse at the orphanage and a young homeless boy who would like nothing better than to nab the women's wallets. "The Halfway Diner" finds a company of women riding a weekly bus to visit their husbands in jail and touchingly describes their esprit de corps ("The thing is," the narrator says, "we're all of us doing time"). Humor leavens the social conscience in many of these tales, and Sayles's exceptional dialogue is reason enough to appreciate this collection. Agent, Anthony Arnove . (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/25/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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