The Book You Have to Read: James Preston Girard’s THE LATE MAN

When Patti Abbott asked me to contribute to her fine project, which rotates around various blogs every Friday, several books came to mind. But in the end, after I’d settled on the one I wanted to talk about, I realized I’d already written about it three and a half years ago. So forgive some cannibalization but when it comes to James Preston Girard‘s fabulous, neglected 1993 crime novel THE LATE MAN, what was once written bears repeating:

put, if there’s a book I want to emulate, copy, steal or whatever, THE LATE MAN
the one. The fact that it’s out of print also says a lot, but it could
be because literary thrillers are incredibly difficult to market,
especially when their publication date is now a dozen years old.
Running in the background is the once-dormant investigation of a serial
killer who places roses by each victim’s side that flares up once again
when a new victim is discovered. Though there is a resolution, the book
is really about the lives and flaws of its three main protagonists:
police Captain L.J. Loomis, journalist Sam Haun (the “late man” because
he works the overnight shift at the paper) and rising star Stosh

character wrestles with palpable demons, mostly to do with failing
relationships: Loomis has lost his wife to another man and misses her
and their children, whom he does not see, terribly. Haun’s wife Claire
and younger son are dead, and in its aftermath he chances upon Claire’s
diary, confessing in great detail to an affair with the newspaper’s
main boss. Who, at this time, is having his own affair with the
intelligent but impressionable Babicki. Is that affair a case of real
love, manipulation, or something in between? Babicki doesn’t really
know for sure, but, as she discovers, it’s a vise she must ungrip
herself from.

LATE MAN is ultimately about loss of every kind, and Girard writes of
such things with an almost terrible knowledge; even if he didn’t know
about it personally, his characters do, and very well at that. Though
at times uncomfortable, the writing is so beautiful and understated
that the emotional heft packs a wallop. What’s also gripping is what is
left unspoken and unresolved; Girard doesn’t hit the reader over the
head with revelations and conclusions but allows them to find them out
of their own accord. It’s intelligent writing that’s extremely

As for whom to tag next: Jenny Davidson, the baton has been passed.