Andrew Vachss

He somehow went right under my radar while writing books that are right up my alley. I love short, sharp prose and gritty subject matter. I’m on my first one, called Pain Management. Can anyone recommend other works of his that are as good or better? Hopefully I’ve found myself a new author…

I think Dark Horse did a limited series of comics of his short stories, called HARD LOOKS. Each tale had a Hitchcock-type ending. One I remember was a story about a young black man who becomes a street hood. He gets in major drug operations, has many girlfriends, takes part in turf wars, and rolls in the money. He talks about how good his life is all throughout the story, and by the last page, he comes home to his apartment, to see a rival gang standing in front of his door armed with AK 47s.

His last thought is “I guess I’ll never live to see 16.”

Yeah, the Dark Horse stuff is pretty good.

I’ve read a lot of Vachss–I met him a couple times working at a bookstore in Chicago–but I eventually tired of him. His stuff is so unrelentingly dark and vicious that it gets monotonous and depressing. Sure, the idea of a vigilante who hunts down and murders child molesters is an interesting idea, but I wish he’d move on to a different plot once in a while. (Unless he has, after I stopped reading him.)

I haven’t read a lot of Vachss either – I think just one story he did with Joe Lansdale. I recognize his name more for his crusade to protect children from violence.

But if you like sharp, gritty prose, when you’ve read all of Vachss, I’d suggest Norman Partridge, especially Slippin’ Into Darkness. Very original.

I liked his Batman novel: Batman: The Ultimate Evil. It was about Batman’s most important case.

I love Vachss. He’s the best writer of gritty characters I’ve found. I recently bought Down Here and The Getaway Man. I haven’t read Down Here yet, but it’s a Burke book, and I’m looking forward to it. The Getaway Man was not in the same mold. The main guy is shy, naive, and easily led. I’m afraid I can’t recommend it.

I love Andrew Vachss and Burke. His first book “Flood” remains one of my favorites. I’d also recommend “Blue Belle.”

“Safe House” has a sub-plot about 12 terrorists driving trucks fill of explosives through the two tunnels and 10 bridges connecting the isle of Manhattan to the rest of New York. Like anyone would have believed that could ever happen when the book came out in 1997!

I’ve read a bunch of Vachss’ work and I was impressed at the time, I’m not so much impressed now.

One story has stuck with me, a short comic book story from the Dark Horse Presents Fifth Anniversary Special called “Placebo”. It might be in a “Hard Looks” collection if they ever did one.

In “Placebo”, the main character is a guy who’s a bit slow mentally and works as a manitenance man for an apt. building. Major spoilers:

One of the kids in his building can’t sleep at night and he builds him a machine with flashing lights to keep the monsters away. But the machine doesn’t do the trick and the maintenance man discovers (through library research even!) that the kid’s psychiatrist has a history of molesting kids. So he builds something else, a whoopass machine I guess, and it ends with him saying “I’ll show Dr. English a machine that works

It’s only 8 pages, but it’s stayed with me for years. Brrrrr.

I read his first few books - Flood, Strega, Blue Belle and a few others - all featuring Burke, his “brother” the martial-arts silent wind of death, the professor who lives in the junkyard, Burke’s ferocious dog, Daisy, etc. - The fact that I remember all of them must mean that they were entertaining to an extent. But they are bleak, the characters are 2-dimensional and all they ever do is fight crime. Bottom line - they are hardboiled depictions of detective super-heroes much more than they are good crime fiction noir characters…

But - oh man - could the cover of Strega be any hotter? The same artist ended up doing some of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlin’s books…I just did a search and can’t find a pic of the original hardback cover - really great.

Now I realize that I REALLY had my head up my nether regions. There’s a link to Vachss’ site on Joe R. Lansdale’s site. I must have missed that the first 300 times I was on there… :smack:

In case anyone is interested, Vachss’s website is

His wife Alice Vachss’s book “Sex Crimes” is also a good read. I first read it on Sunday, September 16, 2001. There’s a story in it that made me laugh for the first time in six days.