The Devils in the Details

Tim Powers is one of my favorite authors. I’ve even met him.

However, I have reviewed very few of his books and not a single proper review of any of his novels.

Blaylock I have no strong feelings for one way or another.

So, just ’cause it was next in the queue, a retro review from January 11, 2004 …

Review: The Devils in the Details, James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers, 2003.Devil in the Details

Blaylock and Powers have been collaborating for thirty years, often implicitly influencing each other and sometimes, like here, collaborating on stories with both their names on them. Fans of either should appreciate the brief account of that collaboration in this book’s afterward and introduction and, specifically, the comments on the volume’s three stories.

As is typical for his shorter work, Powers abandons his characteristic secret histories. In “Through and Through”, a weary, lukewarm priest confronts a ghost in the confessional and rethinks the power and significance of Catholic ritual. But, if we don’t get an epic combining of magic and history, Powers still works in some interesting thoughts on the Garden of Eden.

The modern obsession with inclusivity on college campuses is satirized in Blaylock’s “The Devil in the Details”. A college president’s attempt to build a Christian chapel is thwarted by forces both silly and sinister.

I must admit that I appreciated and understood Powers’ and Blaylock’s collaboration “Fifty Cents” more after reading Blaylock’s afterward. But, even on the first reading, the protagonist’s quest — searching in used bookstores for a book once given to him by his dead wife — and the odd characters he meets in his drive through the desert Southwest, kept me interested.

Each story gets its own introductory illustration, and Blaylock’s afterword is in the form of an inserted pamphlet.

Collectors or fans of either of these authors will want this book not only for the stories but the accounts of a longstanding literary friendship.


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