The Little Death

Conjunctions: 53 "Not Even Past" is out now. Here's an excerpt from my story, "The Little Death," that appears alongside letters from Samuel Beckett and work by Roberto Bolano, Thomas Bernhard, Martine Bellen, Matt Bell... and that's just the B's.

The problem with the Greene case was that it didn’t have a center. Or maybe that there was a hole where the center was supposed to be. Or maybe it was that there was more than one center, more than one hole.

Even when General Greene first explained the case to Raymond Chandler’s barely-disguised fictional dick, “Philip Marlowe”⎯in real life, Stanley “Doghouse” Reilly⎯he threw at least three cases into Reilly’s lap⎯the disappearance of Sean Regan, the legitimate but mysterious debts of his daughter to a gee named Joe Brody, and the blackmailing of that same daughter by another man, Arthur Gwynn Geiger. Chandler had reason to throw a little dirt on Brody, sure, but he wasn’t far off even for that⎯he was right about the other two.

The Greene case was first given the go-by by a private dick named Joe Brody, the same Brody Chandler names in his book. This pee-eye, a “slender fellow with a high forehead,” kept a desk at L. D. “Puss” Walgreen’s outfit in the Fulwider Building on Santa Monica, but he spent most of his time away from it. In those days, there was very little money in the detective business⎯that is, if the detective was honest. Brody wasn’t. Few were.

Brody’s money sideline was making titty books that pervs like Googy Geiger put out on the street. Geiger operated a front on Sunset, “Arthur Gwynn Geiger, Rare Books and De Luxe Editions,” with the help of Reilly, who was also playing the private detective game and not winning. When Brody passed on the Greene’s green, Reilly took on the case and tried to use it as an in for the Brody book business. Armed with that jimmy, Reilly managed to get Brody whacked, a chauffeur knocked off, a girl knocked up, and a sweet little blonde powderpuff put into restraints at the county sanitarium.

Truth be told, though, that sweet little blonde looked pretty good in restraints. She looked pretty good out of them, too. She was the peek in the book Brody was working on when Reilly creased Brody’s business and sent him to the farm.

It has been a great pleasure to work with the editors at Conjunctions--courteous and brilliant, every one--and great fun as well; the issue is a stunner. Really fantastic stories from Adam McOmber, Tim Horvath, Matt Bell, Mark Edmund Doten, Andrew Ervin, Stephen Marche, Elizabeth Rollins, Peter Orner, and Paul West (Tunguska!), and still I'm only just scratching the surface (there are also stories from William H. Gass and Robert Coover (goes without saying that they are also fantastic), as well as some great poetry from Martine Bellen, Cole Swensen, D.E. Steward, and Peter Gizzi, among others). What I'm saying is, buy it.

And while you're over at the website, check out Web Conjunctions: many of the names above appear there, and there are some more fantastic stories and poems to be found just by scrolling down through the list, including a supplement to the issue from Robert Kelly: his long poem, "The Will of Achilles."

"The Little Death," not at all an extract or an excerpt but very much it's own story, is still something akin to a precis of the novel that I am working on, and it is exciting to see it in print, boosting my hope that the kernel of the novel at least is not just spit in the wind. We'll see about the rest.