Liz Logan

The Miami Herald’s Edna Buchanan is one of the finest crime reporters alive, as evidenced by her Pulitzer Prize. She is also one of the worst novelists around, as evidenced by Nobody Lives Forever, her first — and, we can only hope, last — fictional effort.

Imagine Sybil meets Nightmare on Elm Street, with a Duel in the Sun finish. Imagine eyes that are ”apple green and brazen.” Imagine this scene: ” ‘It’s inspection time, Sergeant.

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In her ninth book and second collection of short stories, Lee Smith fulfills some but not all of Faulkner’s commands in Absalom, Absalom!: ”Tell me about the South.” Check. ”What’s it like there.” Check. ”What do they do there.” Check. ”Why do they live at all.” Oops.

Smith knows her literary landscape. This is a place where people are named Cherry, Darnell, and Tammy Lynn; belong to the Sub-Deb Club and the UFO Club; live in Swiss Chalet Apartments; work at the Fabric Barn, Linens ‘n’ Things, and Tanfastic. A few of these people have marvelous voices.

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