cover image Born Bad: Collected Stories

Born Bad: Collected Stories

Andrew H. Vachss. Vintage Books USA, $13.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-679-75336-0

Hard, dark, and raw, this collection of 40 short stories and a play provides ample material for Vachss fans. Unfortunately, the quality varies greatly, ranging from the author's earliest, sometimes sophomoric writings to his more current, professionally crafted stories. None of it is light reading. His writing is always on fast forward, curt, terse but it is sometimes blinded by compassion for the victim--most often children who have been sexually, physically or mentally abused (``Watched the little girl testify in court, her tiny hand clutching the magic stone. The defense attorney hammered away at her, like a sweating, fat pig, boring for truffles. But she stuck it out--he couldn't change the truth. I was proud of her.''). This passion, understandable though it is, sometimes overwhelms his craft. Revenge is the justice of choice because, in Vachss's world, the legal system is inept, unfair and unworkable. Vachss has a flair for unique twists in the final story lines that will leave readers twisting in their seats as well. (Aug.)