cover image Never Love a Gambler

Never Love a Gambler

Keith Ridgway. New Directions, $10.95 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2294-5

This three-story collection presents the same black-and-bloody humor as Ridgway’s Hawthorn & Child, complete with menace, surrealism, and plain old evil. The Pinter-esque title story follows a hard-luck lady named Dodo as she tries to save her son from her husband’s thuggish debtors and encounters a city of abandoned children and mad dogs. “Shame” is the confession of a haunted servant indentured to a nefarious master, trying to forget the unsavory business he is party to. These two stories succeed because of what they leave unsaid, but the third, “Ross and Kinder,” is explicit in the actions of murderer-for-hire Ross, whose list of victims is written on his hands, and Kinder, his cadaverous employer. The line between guilty party and the sucker who’ll swing for the crime is constantly blurred. This means that you can reread these stories without resolving the Beckett-like emptiness that gnaws at the conscience. Ridgway has clearly arrived to trouble our sleep with wit and violence, and, as this excellent sampling of his wares confirms, he is unlikely to leave, even if you ask him nicely. (June)