By James Alan Gardner (born 1955).
First appearance: Tor.com, December 14, 2011.
Novelette (28 pages).
Kindle edition HERE.
Online at Tor.com HERE.
"Presenting a new original science fiction story, 'A Clean Sweep with All the Trimmings,' by author James Alan Gardner, a Damon Runyon-esque tale of courteous guys, bulletproof dolls, and the fedora-clad spacemen that bring them together. This week marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the death of American writer Damon Runyon, best known for his delightful, distinctive prose style and for the series of post-Prohibition New York stories that eventually inspired the musical Guys and Dolls."Ordinarily Madame Rosa's is the place where guys who are so inclined can find cupcake dolls in abundance, but today it is not exactly a safe place for anyone to be in.
Our unnamed narrator—a guy whose job is to clean up messes made by other people who, let us say, do not have a high regard for the law and wish to avoid entanglements with the same—is called to Madame Rosa's "establishment" because it has suddenly become a free fire zone, with bullets flying all over the place; except for the ones coming out of a tommy gun belonging to a doll from upstairs ("a gift from an admirer"), most of them have been fired by these guys who wear green fedoras, have glowing red palms, and spill wires and green blood when they are perforated. What is hard to understand is that their targets are not peccant husbands or two-timing boyfriends like you might think but the cupcake dolls themselves, prompting our narrator to observe: "That is a waste of good dolls."
Twenty sticks of dynamite later Madame Rosa's is no more, so that there is nothing left to interest Mr. J. Edgar Hoover; but in cleaning up the mess our narrator meets Kitty, a most unusual doll as he soon discovers:
"'Kitty,' I say, 'you are the first doll I meet who is bulletproof.'
"'You do not mind, do you?'
"'It is a fine way to be. I often wish it for myself. However, I now suspect you have secrets.'"
Oh, she has secrets all right, including a big one concerning just who—and what—she really is . . .
More often than not our author precisely nails the "Runyonese" (see below for what that is):
"My last doll leaves me for a shoe salesman, and it is a hard blow when a doll decides you are lower than a guy who spends all day on his knees."
"The guy who sells me this truck tells me it has safety glass, but if so, it is the same type of safety you get from safe bets with FiveAce McQueen."
". . . we leave the vicinity, since cops and firemen will soon arrive, and as a good citizen, I do not wish to get in the way of their duties."
"Before you can say, 'Speak of the devil,' a guy walks in wearing a green fedora. I do not wish to keep encountering this individual. I am running out of trashcans. Furthermore, there is a limit on the number of shootouts that can happen in public places before someone gets hurt. As if to illustrate this point, the guy in the green fedora pulls out a John Roscoe and fires it, taking off a citizen’s ear. Luckily, it is only a waiter and not a good waiter at that, because once I order a juniper sundae from him and he does not understand what I mean."
"When a doll cries, it is about something very small or very big, and both ways, a guy is out of his depth."
- You can find out a lot more about James Alan Gardner (HERE), (HERE), (HERE), and at his homepage (HERE).
- Mike Grost explains how Damon Runyon (1880-1946) correlates with the universe of fiction:
Damon Runyon became famous in the 1930's for his humorous, and highly original, short stories about Broadway low lifes, gamblers, crooks and bootleggers. Aside from the fact that many of Damon Runyon's tales have crooks as their protagonists, his stories have little in common with the Rogue School. Rogue literature forms a well defined tradition of elegant crooks committing ingenious thefts, while impersonating members of the upper classes and thumbing their nose at the police. There is nothing of this in Runyon. One would never confuse his Nicely Nicely Johnson or Dave the Dude with such authentic rogues as Raffles or the Saint. Mainstream critics have always been puzzled about where to place Runyon in the scheme of things. He is a writer with no literary prestige among academic critics, but he hardly fits in with the genre of mystery fiction, either. — Mike Grost, "Damon Runyon" (HERE), A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection- In addition to James Alan Gardner, it's easy to see why Damon Runyon has been an inspiration to other writers:
He was best known for his short stories celebrating the world of Broadway in New York City that grew out of the Prohibition era. To New Yorkers of his generation, a "Damon Runyon character" evoked a distinctive social type from the Brooklyn or Midtown demi-monde. The adjective "Runyonesque" refers to this type of character as well as to the type of situations and dialog that Runyon depicted. He spun humorous and sentimental tales of gamblers, hustlers, actors, and gangsters, few of whom go by "square" names, preferring instead colorful monikers such as "Nathan Detroit", "Benny Southstreet", "Big Jule", "Harry the Horse", "Good Time Charley", "Dave the Dude", or "The Seldom Seen Kid." His distinctive vernacular style is known as "Runyonese": a mixture of formal speech and colorful slang, almost always in present tense, and always devoid of contractions. He is credited with coining the phrase "Hooray Henry", a term now used in British English to describe an upper-class, loud-mouthed, arrogant twit. — Wikipedia, "Damon Runyon" (HERE)- We've spent a little time with Runyon ourselves (HERE).
The bottom line: "Sure, I'm legit. I'm in favor of law and order. But you don't have to have it right in your own house, do you?"
— Remy Marco