Sunday, February 22, 2009

Guardian Angel/The Hour When the Ship comes in

I read The Hour When the Ship Comes in this week. The story starts out with the sentence, "One good deed...One good deed is all it takes to get a man killed. " Yancy, the man in question, was a crook. During the committment of a crime, which was supposed to be non-violent, things went wrong with his partners, and he made a splint second choice. The "one good deed" The rest of the story moved quickly, and recounted his dying journey from the crime scene to a the Queen Mary, a ship on the shore. His thoughts moved quickly and sometimes randomly from the events of the crime, to his surroundings, to his past, to his goal. Through the meanderings of his mind the reader could get an idea of his character. A little insight was given into the character of his two partners in crime, but they were not the focus. The story really was just about Yancy. There were no outside plots. Guardian Angel had multiple side plots that eventually connected to the main crime. There were other principle people in the story other than the V.I, the investigator, such as the neighbor Mr. Contreras, the Pinchea's and Lottie. Their characters and relationships were explored and developed in the novel.

The Hour When the Ship Comes in set a choppy pace. Sentence length varied from short to rambling. This set the tone of a dying many exerting physical effort to get to his destination, and trying to resolve in his mind how he came to his current state. It was easy to feel that he was becoming weaker, and short of breath. The length of a short story made this possible. If this story was a subplot in a novel, it may have been effective, but would have probably lost some impact in the overall plot. Guardian Angel was long, maybe in some places a little too draggy, but needed the length to flesh out the various subplots, explore the characters of various people, and connect all the pieces of the puzzle. This would not have worked in a short story. The short story was okay. I can't say I didn't like it, but there was no detective, no mystery other than what may have been a mystery to Yancy himself when he was exploring his mind. I enjoyed Guardian Angel. It was long, but kept my attention.

I really can't say I notice much of a difference in the short stories I have read based on the author's gender. There just isn't much time to really develop personalities of characters and interactions. In the novels, there is more opportunities to develop characters and plots which may reflect the authors gender.

The Hour When the Ship Comes in did not challenge me. I knew right away what the outcome would be. It did not seem like a mystery to me. I think the three short stories I have read really seem like crime stories, rather than mysteries.


  1. Hi Mary -

    I think it is interesting that many of the short stories we've read seem to be lacking a traditional "mystery" to them. I can see how they might be categorized in the genre, but am still amazed at how my own expectations of "what a mystery is" is often different in these stories. Nice write-up!

  2. Mary,

    I think you did a fantastic job with your essay. I find it is extremely difficult to get into a short story. There is not enough time for one to relate to and become involved with the characters. I enjoy short stories, but I do find that sometimes I get disappointed when it is over. This happens more when I am enjoying the story as opposed to a story I dislike.