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I don’t as a rule like holiday-themed works of art. There are exceptions. Christmas Is a Special Day, an album of Christmas songs by Fats Domino, remains a favorite (in part because it was gifted to me by The Man himself, but that’s another story). I also listen repeatedly to Come On Christmas to Dwight Yoakam, and read The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and “The Gift of the Magi” by O Henry a few times as well. Those are the exceptions to the rule, however.
I added one more holiday item to the list this year. It can be found in a recently published anthology titled The Usual Santas which is published by Soho Crime. I was immediately struck by the concept of the collection, that being to take the imprint’s roster of authors and commission Christmas-themed crime and thriller stories from them. It’s a wonderful collection from beginning to end. There is one story that stands out, however, that being “Chalee’s Nativity” by Timothy Hallinan. Tim writes a memorable series about Poke Rafferty, an expatriate American living in Bangkok, which is where “Chalee’s Nativity” is set. Rafferty does not poke his nose under the story’s tent, but Hallinan’s ever-keen eye for observation is fully and accurately street-tuned in this story about two orphans swept up onto the rough and dangerous streets of Bangkok at Christmastime. I have read this story every single day since I first encountered it in October, and will probably continue to do so long after this Christmas has passed. I won’t say that I haven’t complained about anything since I first read it, but this account of mind-numbing poverty, ill fortune, and charity of spirit has renewed my appreciation for what I have, from the moment when I wake up in the morning to the time when I close my eyes in the evening. If you get a chance in the run-up to the holidays please find a copy The Usual Santas and read it (as well as the other stories in the collection). You will be thankful.
Since we are talking about appreciation for what we have, please know that as we wind down 2017 that I appreciate you, and you, and yes, you for coming by this page and spending a few minutes with us here at TKZ and, if you are so inclined, commenting. It means a lot, more than you probably realize. I hope that all of us will continue to make your visit worthwhile.
Best wishes. See you in 2018, if the Good Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise.