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Where Everything Ends: The Mystery Novels of Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
Subterranean Press, 785 pages

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest SF and fantasy writers of our time. Born in Waukegan, Illinois, in 1920, he authored such classics of the genre as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and Farenheit 451 (1953) by his early 30s, and continues to produce important work today.
In 1990, while at a summit meeting in New York, Mikhail Gorbachov made a special trip to visit Bradbury, his "favourite author," whose works he claimed to have read in the original versions. Bradbury is American fantasy's great ambassador.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Martian Chronicles
SF Site Review: Masks
SF Site Review:Summer Morning, Summer Night
SF Site Review: Moby Dick: A Screenplay
SF Site Review: Fahrenheit 451
SF Site Review: Dinosaur Tales
SF Site Review: From the Dust Returned
SF Site Review: Dandelion Wine
SF Site Review: Green Shadows, White Whale
SF Site Review: Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines
SF Site Review: Driving Blind
SF Site Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes
SF Site Review: The Illustrated Man

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Mario Guslandi

Where Everything Ends: The Mystery Novels of Ray Bradbury Widely famous as a SF writer, Ray Bradbury is an eclectic author who in the course of his long career has been dealing with various fiction genres, including mystery. Bookended by the short, previously unpublished and rather unremarkable title story, Where Everything Ends, the present volume collects Bradbury's three mystery novels in a hefty volume of 700+ pages.

Death is a Lonely Business, originally published in 1985 and set in 1949, takes place in the town of Venice, California, a place bound to an inexorable decline, plagued by a series of suspicious deaths and inexplicable disappearances. The narrator is a young writer, easily identified with Bradbury himself, who will solve the mystery with the help of an experienced detective called Emo Crumley.

The following novel, A Graveyard for Lunatics, first published in 1990 and set in 1954, is located, as the subtitle states, "in two cities," that is the Hollywood film studio, Maximus Films, and the adjacent cemetery, Green Glades. The main character is a young scriptwriter (again, Bradbury himself) getting involved in solving a puzzle starting with the discovery of the body of man who had been dead for twenty years, right against the wall between the graveyard and the studio.

The last (and arguably the weakest) chapter of the trilogy is represented by Let's All Kill Constance, appeared in print in 2002. Set eleven years later than Death is a Lonely Business, the novel features the same main characters (Bradbury's double, i.e. the Californian writer, and detective Crumley) engaged in the attempt to prevent the murders of a series of people from the Hollywood world, all included on a death list provided by the aging film star Constance Rattigan.

A few, similar comments can apply to the three novels. Here we have very atypical detective stories written in a medley of styles and displaying a great variety of tones. Bradbury's extraordinary ability to jump from poetry to irony, from reality to fantasy, seems unfit to produce coherent, credible mystery stories. Apparently inspired to the works of genre masters such as Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, etc., Bradbury's attempts to consistently carve plausible plots and especially to create the required atmosphere fall short. Instead we have enjoyable, imaginative noir pastiches (occasionally on the verge of parody) featuring stereotypical characters and ending with slow and a bit disappointing denouements. In short, it seems to me that Bradbury's mystery novels just lack the dark nature of the genre, possibly because, when all is said and done, the author's general attitude is a tongue-in-cheek approach to the canons of the noir.

Real fans of crime and mystery have little reason to rejoice, but confirmed admirers of Bradbury's talent will be happy to see all his detective stories bound under one cover.

Copyright © 2010 by Mario Guslandi

Mario Guslandi lives in Milan, Italy, and is a long-time fan of dark fiction. His book reviews have appeared on a number of genre websites such as The Alien Online, Infinity Plus, Necropsy, The Agony Column and Horrorwold.

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