“That was fucking great!” I told Lee Rourke when he finished reading his short story ‘Night Shift’ at the dark and raunchy KGB bar in New York City . Of course, I was sitting beside Lee’s pretty girlfriend; and yeah, I was pretty well schnockered by then. But I stand by those words – it was great, and still is. Tried my best to steal a copy of Lee’s book from his coat pocket, but he caught me, said he’d only brought the one, having accidentally left a stack of others back in London. But when I finally did get a copy, it was well worth the wait.
Like literary treasure, you take this book with you, read a piece here and there, think about it for awhile. You feel it like being there, at the pub or a dark alley in Soho or a busy street on your way to work. The settings are all familiar, even if you’ve never been there. Rourke draws you in, to his world, makes it seem like our own. A comfortable thing, this familiar everyday world; a place we’d all like to be, even if the stories cut and stab, slapping our everyday life in the face. We know what Rourke means when he reminds us that even success at our robotic repetitive jobs is a sort of unspoken suicide of the mind and soul. That which we are willing to trade or sacrifice of our precious time for comfortable positions, a comfortable little life. And as writers who are artists are wont to do, even the writing, the style, the words, are comforting, familiar, appealing. Absorbing us in a blanket of serene peace of mind. And what’s wrong with that? Why do we come off as villains in these tales about ourselves?
Well of course, it’s obvious, once we recognize the real heroes in Rourke’s stories. The unfettered, the birds, the pigeons, whose ordinary life is unbounded and free. And however wretched or capricious their lives may be, it’s never given up or given away for something else; something artificial, not of their own making. Like the young kids on the flat rooftop of that abandoned building. We see them from our office window. They’re naked now, and splendid. That muscular young fellow and his pretty girlfriend, and having sex now right out in the open. Everyone can see them. These unemployed aimless kids, unashamed of their naked bodies and their shiftless carefree lifestyle. What are they doing out there in front of everyone. Don’t they care what people think? Respectable people? Don’t they care what responsible people do? Don’t they care?
Any Cop?: Everyday, Lee’s collection twenty-eight short stories is always good, always worthwhile.