Bradley Denton, who grew up in Kansas and now proudly calls himself a Texan, is a modern master of oddball fantasy. Comparisons to fellow Texans Joe R. Lansdale and Howard Waldrop (and even, to jump across the Atlantic, to Jonathan Carroll) are perhaps inevitable, but Denton does his own thing. And he never repeats himself, either. If you haven't discovered him yet through such novels as Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede, Blackburn, or Lunatics, this collection is a great place to start. In a previous printing as a pair of small-press collections, six of these tales won the 1995 World Fantasy Award. Added into the mix are two new stories, including one that serves as a coda to the saga of Jimmy Blackburn (Blackburn).
"All the stories in this book," Denton says, "harassed me into writing them, but some of them literally gave me nightmares until I set them down on paper." One Day Closer to Death: Eight Stabs at Immortality is about living in the face of death--the toll it takes, the jokes we make. Each story is a unique dark gem that can't be summarized by a list of phrases--a self-destructive performance artist, the coyote "Trickster" of legend, black-pajama-wearing demons in a field of sorghum, Lenny Bruce and John Belushi in the afterlife--but those snatches at least hint at the variety of themes. What makes the book, though, is how Denton's earnest tone, as flat as the prairies of his childhood, can deliver deadpan humor in one sentence, and a serious, disturbing question in the next.
You can bet on it: this collection is going to be a classic. --Fiona Webster