Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Don't Know Much About This Story . . .

I recently read Olen Steinhauer's novella, You Know What's Going On, a story in which -- despite the title -- none of the characters know what's going on. Here's a sample in what follows:
The opening hook:
What troubled him most was that he was afraid to die. Paul believed, though he had no evidence of it, that other spies did not suffer from this. But evidence holds little sway over belief, and so it was for him.
The touching murder:
"Take it out, then," said Sam.


"The gun. Take it out and do what you have to do. I personally don't think you can. Not here in your own house. Not with your own hands. And how would you explain it to Nabil? He wants me. Like you, he wants the money. He-" Sam stopped himself because he recognized that he was rambling. Panic was starting to overcome him.

Dutifully, though, Kwambai removed a revolver from his pocket and placed it on the table, pointing it at Sam much the way Sam had pointed the Beretta at Paul Fisher. Unlike the Beretta, this was an old gun, a World War II model Colt.45. Kwambai's eyes were red around the edges. "I like you, Sam. I really do."

"But not that much."

"No," Kwambai said as he lifted the pistol and shot three times before he could think through what he was doing.
The congenial denoument:
"If I forget it, maybe it'll just go away," Benjamin said, smiling pleasantly as he got in and started the car. In no time at all, they had passed the incoming traffic and made it over the hills and back into the city. It was as if the burning house had never been. Despite the sweltering heat, Benjamin had even stopped sweating.
And thus it ends . . .
Maybe those bits reveal the charm of this story, maybe not, but I find the work to be Steinhauer's best-written, most tightly constructed story.

For more, see the Amazon site, or go to Google Books.

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