The Resurrection Man’s Legacy

Dale Bailey
Golden Gryphon Press, 2003, ISBN 1-930846-22-3; 290 Pages, Hardcover $24.95. [

Review by Kristin Livdahl

Golden Gryphon Press has been publishing high quality short story collections since 1997. Many of these are books I consider essential to any speculative fiction bookshelf and include authors such as James Patrick Kelly, Andy Duncan and Jeff Ford. Dale Bailey’s first collection, The Resurrection Man’s Legacy, continues this tradition. The stories, originally published in genre magazines from 1994 to 2003, portray small town and southern life using settings that are often darkly fantastic and sometimes horrific and invite comparison with the short fiction of Ray Bradbury, Terry Bisson and Stephen King.
Bailey’s characters are ordinary people dealing with the universal issues of death, birth, parenthood, aging and race and his writing reflects a strong affinity with oral story telling. In “Quinn’s Way,” his narrator reflects on stories before sharing one from his childhood.
“In forty years as a lawyer, I have learned one true thing about stories, real stories as opposed to fictional ones. They have no true beginning. There is an irony in this, I suppose, for if I have learned even one other true thing, it is that more than anything else, people want their stories to be shapely. Clear beginnings, problematic middles, sensible resolutions.”
“Quinn’s Way” has a similar feel to and shares subject matter with Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” and, in the story notes at the end of the collection, we learn that the original story was its inspiration. Bailey’s version, however, gives the story a harder edge, bringing up to date.
At his darkest, Bailey reminded me of Jonathon Lethem’s short fiction in Wall of the Eye Wall of the Sky. His story, “Death and Suffrage,” winner of a 2003 International Horror Guild Award, called to mind Lethem’s story “Light and the Sufferer.” Both stories share a similar tone and seem destined to end in tragedy. In Bailey’s story, the dead return to vote in a presidential election and, in the end, are as inscrutable of witnesses to events as Lethem’s alien Sufferers.
“The Census Taker,” published last fall in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, was one of the most memorable and chilling stories of the year. The story tells of an African American census taker who stumbles into a backwater town, frozen in the past and isolated from the outside world by a changing swampland. Narrated by the owner of the general store, it shows the compromises and self-deception required by those who perpetuate systematized racism and its effects on both the oppressed and the oppressor.
The main character of “In Green’s Dominion” is a retired academic who has found herself alone with her garden and a former student she mentored now a colleague at the same university. The story neatly weaves the Green Man legend with flashbacks of her past to provide a powerful, bittersweet portrait of love, the end of life and second chances.
All in all, it is a strong and varied debut collection. Bailey deftly shifts between male and female, and child, adult and elder voices, weaving their stories into his world, a world one shade darker than our own.

Kristin Livdahl
10 August 2004

Additional Information

Dale Bailey’s Site – The author’s homepage.

Golden Gryphon Press – The Publisher’s site features a page on The Resurrections Man’s Legacy.

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