Monday 21 October 2013

Others Of My Kind by James Sallis

At age eight, Jenny Rowan was abducted and kept for two years in a box beneath her captor's bed. Eventually she escaped and, after living for eighteen months on cast-offs at the local mall, was put into the child-care system. Suing for emancipation, at age sixteen she became a legal adult. Nowadays she works as a production editor for the local public TV station, and is one of the world's good people. 

One evening she returns home to find a detective waiting for her. Though her records are sealed, he somehow knows her story. He asks if she can help with a young woman who, like her many years before, has been abducted and traumatized.Initially hesitant, Jenny decides to get involved, reviving buried memories and setting in motion an unexpected interchange with the president herself. 

As brilliantly spare and compact as are all of James Sallis's novels, Others of My Kind stands apart for its female protagonist. Set in a near future of political turmoil, it is a story of how we overcome, how we shape ourselves by what happens to us, and of how the human spirit, whatever horrors it undergoes, will not be put down.

James Sallis is an American author, best know for his Lew Griffin novels and Drive; his 2005 novel that was adapted for the cinema.   Others Of My Kind is his latest novel, published in the UK by No Exit Press on 27 October 2013.   Sallis is an author that I've not come across before, his novels are best described as noir crime - or 'hardboiled' fiction which would never be my first choice when selecting my next read.

Others Of My Kind should probably be described as a novella, rather than a novel - the paperback copy has just 157 pages and can easily be read in one sitting.

The writing is spare, not a word is wasted, but despite this, the story is well defined, expertly executed and features a cast of characters who are very ably led by the protagonist Jenny Rowan.   Jenny is a successful TV editor, her work is well-known and well-respected.  She lives simply and sees the good in people. Her neighbours, friends and colleagues do not know that Jenny was once the Mall Girl - an eleven-year-old who was found living in a shopping mall after escaping from a man who had abducted her and kept her in a box under his bed.    When Detective Jack Collins calls on Jenny and asks her to speak to a young woman who is traumatised after a similar experience, Jenny's memories begin to haunt her again.

The story is set sometime in the near future, although the actual year is not disclosed.  American is at war, the White House is on full security and the news is full of scandals.  Jenny does her best to help people wherever she can, she seems to bear no resentment towards the man who robbed her of her childhood, preferring instead to use the experience in a positive way - to see the best in others and to offer hope to those who are suffering.

Others Of My Kind is really not my usual sort of read, but I enjoyed it very much.  Part of the beauty in this book is its length and the eloquence of the writing.  It doesn't have a fast paced plot, it's more of a discovery of human kind and how horrific experiences don't always mean the destruction of character.

I received and reviewed my copy of Others Of My Kind as part of the Real Readers programme.


James Sallis (born 21 December 1944 in Helena, Arkansas) is an American crime writer, poet and musician, best known for his series of novels featuring the character Lew Griffin and set in New Orleans, and for his 2005 novel Drive, which was adapted into a 2011 film of the same name.
More information about the author can be found at

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