“Windy City Blues” by Sara Paretsky

Paretsky, Sara. Windy City Blues (1995)

When Windy City Blues, a collection of V.I. Warshawski short stories, came out, Sara Paretsky was in the midst of a prolonged and well publicized writing slump. After I read this book, my heart sank. I feared that we might never see another Paretsky book again.

I imagined this scenario: Paretsky’s agent and/or editor said, “Sara, it’s been a while since you published a book. We need to get your name back out in front of the public. What do you have for us?”

Having completed very little of her current work in progress, Paretsky reached into the bottom drawer of her file cabinet and drew out a stack of earlier stories. In the introduction to this book Paretsky tells us she wrote these pieces when she needed to work through an idea that didn’t require a complete novel. In the “Author’s Note” she says, “These stories were written over a period of thirteen years, beginning with ‘The Takamoku Joseki’ (1982) and ending with ‘Grace Notes’ (1995), created especially for this collection.”

These stories were cobbled together into the volume published as Windy City Blues. With the exception of the addition of the new story, “Grace Notes,” nothing was done to the material to give it any kind of continuity. It looks very much as if Paretsky was desperate to publish something—anything—with her name on it.

In the Introduction to this volume Paretsky says, “The eye with which I see Chicago is always half cocked for alienation and despair, because for me the city is a dangerous place where both states are only just below the surface” (p. 2). Unfortunately, the short story form doesn’t allow the author to explore these conditions. Whereas the V.I. Warshawski novels often do probe such issues, there’s no such meaty content in the stories that make up Windy City Blues.

© 2000 by Mary Daniels Brown

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