Cover Image: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 2: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories

The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume 2: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories

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I had read a fair number of the stories in the first volume of this collection. I wasn't nearly as familiar with the stories in this one.

There's a lot of nostalgia in this book. Many of the stories take place when the author was a young boy and are pseudo-autobiographical. He's not claiming that any of these fantastical things ever happened to him and his friends, he's just looking back in time at what it was to be young. The last of these stories brought a tear to my eye, no mean feat. These particular stories are about a very specific experience: what it was like to be a young Jewish boy in 1950's New York City.

I found myself being tired of reading these occasionally and had to take breaks. Most of the stories are pleasant but don't quite have the bite of some of his earlier stories. Not many will really stick with me, so I liked the book but won't rate it higher than that.

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Another superb collection of fantasy stories that richly invoke the author’s childhood streets, friends and imagination.

Inside these pages are dragons and centaurs, ghosts and illusions, monsters (supernatural and human) and werewolves, unicorns (of course!), aliens, death dogs, time travel, a jaunt through the Overneath and an Edgar Rice Burroughs homage mash-up – so an eclectic mix of different sci-fi, fantasy and speculative styles across the stories.

My personal favourites were the stories based on the author’s childhood friends: ‘The Rock in the Park’, ‘Marty and the Messenger’, ‘Mr McCaslin’ and ‘The Fifth Season’. They really conjured up a nostalgic atmosphere of hot childhood summers lived in your wildest imaginations, roaming wild and responsibility-free… I felt like I was transported back in time with each one.

I was less keen on the Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired ‘Tarzan Swings by Barsoom’, which makes sense as I haven’t read any of that authors work and so felt pretty lost in space with the whole adventure. I’m sure fans familiar with the original stories will love it though!

As usual though, Peter S. Beagle knocks it right out of the park when it comes to fantasy of any description, short stories in particular, and the knack of bringing the world into vivid focus in ways you hadn’t thought to see it before.

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Thank you so so so much NetGalley and Tachyon Publications for access to this beautiful and enchanting arc!!

5/5 stars!!!

Peter S Beagle has owned my heart since I was a very, very small child, and my love for this fantastic human and his beautiful prose has only grown as I've grown up. This collection of short stories are not only entertaining but also incredibly touching. My favourites of this collection include The Rabbi's Hobby and Trinity County, CA, but really I love all of them <3

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Another amazing collection from the greatest living author, (in my humble opinion)Peter S Beagle. His second volume of short stories continued to keep me enthralled after finishing the first collection. I would say the most memorable story for me was Sleight of Hand. Another 5 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend this collection, as well as volume 1. Thanks for Netgalley and publisher for the ARC in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.

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I just adore Beagle's writing. Thats all there is to it. His stories are absolutely beautiful. I read his earlier work in high school and now as an adult I still equally love his writing. I cannot recommend his work enough. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me this arc to read.

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It’s a good time to be a Peter S. Beagle fan. In short order this mid-year, we’ve been gifted The Way Home — two novellas set in the world of the beloved classic The Last Unicorn — and two collections of Beagle’s short stories: The Essential Peter S. Beagle: Volumes I and II. And true gifts they are. You can see my review of the novellas here at while I’ll review both volumes of the collected stories below.

The two volumes span Beagle’s lengthy career, with most of them having been published earlier, though several of the stories appear for the first time here. And of course, with any such retrospective collection, the point is not so much new material but to have the author’s work all in one convenient place. The other benefits, beyond convenience, is that reading the stories through allows the reader to pick up on Beagle’s repeated themes, images, character types (or actual characters, as Beagle has several that people multiple tales), and the like, while also giving the reader a more full and intimate sense of the author behind the stories. This latter is especially true in these collections as despite being fantasy stories, few of these are set in fantasy worlds or even far-flung geographies but instead are grounded quite deeply and solidly in Beagle’s own past, as his brief intros to each story make clear.

That life includes a childhood growing up Jewish in the Bronx and an adulthood spent in California, and those two setting are the background for a good number of these stories. While the California tales feel more neutral, the Bronx stories have a deep emotionality to them as well as a not-unexpected sense of nostalgia and a mourning for the loss of those mostly innocent days of adolescent friendship. While “fantasy writer” nowadays calls up images of multi-book series set in wholly-created worlds, while we do get the occasional dragon or unicorn here, the setting and Jewish background/folklore, along with the mix of grief and humor, are more reminiscent of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story or the Bernard Malamud of The Magic Barrel (rather than his novels), while Beagle’s depictions of childhood and his sense of nostalgia for that age and the deep attachment to a specific geography reminded me of Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan stories, though the two are wildly different in the details.

Thematically, along with the nostalgia for a vanished childhood and inevitability of loss that comes with living, other topics that run throughout the two books are the power of imagination/creativity and the joys (and griefs) of deep abiding friendships, whether they be as children, as adolescent, as adults, or inter-generational. Several of his Beagle’s childhood friends (or at least, characters based on them as he tells us) appear in multiple stories, while two stories are pretty much out and out odes to his good friend and fellow writer Avram Davidson. The stories display a variety of form and style, and if they aren’t all home runs, many are, and the rest are always entertaining enough and always contain at least a few wonderful sentences; Beagle has always been, beside a great storyteller, an excellent wordsmith/sentence crafter. And what’s “essential” here is not any single story but wholeness of Beagle’s craft and mind at work, and the feeling one has at the end that they’ve formed a relationship not just with the author’s characters, but the author himself. And if it’s an illusory one, well, that’s pretty apt for the material here. You can stop here with a “highly recommended” from me or read on with some responses to specific stories.

My favorites from Volume I
“A Dance for Emilia”: A story about the too-early death of a friend and the way grief brings mourners and the mourned together (in fantasy, one gets to make that literal), all of it suffused with Beagle’s usual bittersweetness. This one alone is worth purchasing the collection for. A standout story.

“Come Lady Death”: A fantastic story that plays a bit with Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” as a somewhat jaded great lady decides to spice up her newest ball by inviting Death. Perfect pacing, sharply drawn characters despite the brevity of the descriptions, perfect close, and a great and unexpected Death.

“Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros”: A Thurber-esque like story about a professor who ends up in a rich friendship with a rhinoceros that thinks it’s a unicorn or a unicorn the professor thinks is a rhinoceros. Warmhearted, tender, and quite funny, though admittedly, some knowledge of philosophy, while by no means required, will make it all the more fun.

“Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel”: A good story if perhaps a little over-long, centered on the young narrator’s uncle, an artist who is visited by an angel (or is it) sent to act as his muse and pose for him. All the characters are brought memorably to life as the story goes in unexpected directions

“Gordon the Self-Made Cat”: If “Professor Gottesman” feels like Thurber and “Uncle Chaim” like Singer (just to be clear—they both feel way more like Beagle), this has more than a hint of E.B.White. Gordon the mouse decides this whole predator-prey thing is ridiculous, and so he takes himself off to cat school, where he excels at learning how to be a cat via classes like “Dealing with Dogs and another on Getting Down From Trees …Running and Pouncing . . . Waiting for the Prey to Forget You’re Still There, … Tail Etiquette, The Elegant Yawn, [and] Sleeping in Undignified Positions.” Gordon doesn’t end up getting everything he wants (it wouldn’t be a Beagle story otherwise) but one has a sense he’ll be fine. A pitch-perfect voice, a wonderful sense of whimsy, and a great ending. Seriously, this should be a chapter book followed by an animated short.

“The Stickball Witch”: One of Beagle’s “memory” tales involving his childhood friends, like many of Beagle’s stories it shows us the magic in the everyday. More specifically, it has fun with the classic “old neighbor every kid in the neighborhood is terrified of” story.

Favorites from Volume II

“The Rabbi’s Hobby”: probably my favorite of the two books. The story veers back and forth between the young narrator’s anxiety over learning Hebrew for his bar mitzvah and the quest he and the rabbi tutoring him set themselves on to find a young woman whose image in a photograph struck them both deeply. Warm, funny, a wonderful depiction of an inter-generational relationship, and a profound mediation on loss. Some of the best aspects are what Beagle doesn’t do here — plot moves that a lot of lesser writers would have chosen, though I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers.

“La Lune T’Attend”: a riveting werewolf story (I liked this one far better than the one in Volume I) where the werewolves are two old men who have shared a horrible secret (beyond being werewolves) for much of their lives, one that now threatens not only them but their families.

“The Vanishing” an old man falls asleep in a waiting room and wakes up back in his old life as a soldier on the Berlin Wall, with his old Russian counterpart on the other side also there. A well-paced story of guilt and atonement, both in the past and present.

“The Bridge Partner”: a taut, suspenseful little quasi-horror story that begins, believe it or not, at a bridge game. There, mousy little Mattie is matched up with a new partner who at the end of the game whispers to her, “I will kill you.” Things only get more tense after that.

“Sleight of Hand” A woman, after an unspeakable tragedy, goes off for a mindless drive to try and escape her life and runs into a magician from her childhood who is much more than he seems. Another exploration of grief and love, the story itself is good, but it has some of the finest sentences in it of the collection.

“The Rock in the Park” Another “childhood” story, and also another where a moment of magic breaks through the usual routines, in this case, a family of lost centaurs. Also a good look at the power of art/creativity.

“The Story of Kao Yu” Set in ancient China and focused on the main character, a judge who falls in love with a thief brought before him. A good story but this one won me mover mostly for the perfect voicing.

“Trinity County CA”: a truly fun “what if” story — what if dragons are real, and what if drug dealers use them to guard their meth labs. Suspenseful, action packed, great dialogue, wonderful depiction of the dragons, and a perfect type of story in that magical realism way of changing just one thing about the world.

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The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume II is the second collection of short(er) fiction by perennial author Peter S. Beagle. Released together with its sister volume 16th May 2023 by Tachyon, it's 352 pages and is available in hardcover and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a wonderfully curated collection of 16 pieces, including one previously unpublished, four previously uncollected, and several which were unfamiliar to me. There wasn't a dud in the entire lot. Mr. Beagle is a superlative writer with a sublime and consummate command of English as well as being a master of written fiction.

Each of the stories contains a short introduction by the author himself. The collection is also enhanced by the intricate chapter headings and line drawings of artist Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, whose art is ethereal and reminiscent of Sulamith Wülfing and calls to mind P. Craig Russel as well, without being the slightest bit derivative of either.

Five stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, for home use, and for gift giving purposes.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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This a common review for both Volume 1 and 2 of The Essential Peter S. Beagle
I recently discovered Peter Beagle when I read a new release of The Last Unicorn and I was happy I discovered a new to me classic author.
I've reading fantasy stories since the 80s so I was left wondering why I never read his stories before and happy because there was a lot of new worlds to discover.
This two volumes features all I loved in the Last Unicorn: tenderness, humour, fascinating world building and excellent storytelling.
I think it's time more people read this author as his stories are top level.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this arc, all opinions are mine

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As in Volume 1, Mr Beagle is so adept at weaving these fantasies into and through the characters' lives that I read the whole volume in an afternoon/ evening. The stories are not rooted in any one "type". The mood and tone of each is set by the characters and their community of events and actions. They feel three dimensional. The friend that recommended Peter S Beagle to me is going to get a BIG present as these are some of the best fantasies I've read in awhile.

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› The Essential Peter S. Beagle Volume II Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories has an introduction by Meg Elison, artwork by Stephanie Law and 16 stories.

› Sleight of Hand: a heartbreaking story about a woman who is lost and depressed after her husband and daughter die. She drives aimlessly and meets a magician (who reminded me of Schmendrick) at a diner who changes her life.

Oakland Dragon Blues: is about the dragon from the original version of The Last Unicorn

The Rock in the Park: is about centaurs who need a little help from two ordinary teen boys.

The Rabbi's Hobby: is about Rabbi Tuvim helping Joseph prepare for his Bar Mitzvah and they end up working together to find a girl from an old photograph. This is my favourite story in the collection.

The Way It Works Out and All: is about a strange alternate universe called the Overneath. An awesome story.

The Best Worst Monster: "From the tips of his twisted, spiky horns all the way down to his jagged claws, the monster was without any doubt the biggest, ugliest, most horrible creature ever made."

La Lune T'Attend: Arceneaux and Garrigue are lifelong friends and werewolves try to defend their families from a vicious villain.

The Story of Kao Yu: this is a story about a judge who lives in South China named Kao Yu who sometimes enlisted the help of a unicorn to help him determine a person's fate. The Chinese unicorn, called Chi-li is more like a magical dragon-horse who always knows the truth and will deliver swift and brutal justice.

Trinity County, CA: You'll Want to Come Again and We'll be Glad to See You!: drug dealers that have dragons. Another great story!

Marty and the Messenger: is about talking jello. Funny, ridiculous, tense, heartbreaking. Beagle can do it all.

The Mantichora: the last person on earth who can speak Mantichora meets the last Mantichora.

Mr. McCaslin: a crabby old man asks a group of kids for one favour - keep the dog away from him for a few weeks so he can have enough time to get his affairs in order before he dies.

The Fifth Season: Four fifteen-year-old boys have an epic water gun battle.

Tarzan Swings by Barsoom: Tarzan wakes up on another planet.

The Bridge Partner: Mattie's new bridge partner is dangerous.

Vanishing: a man fall's asleep in a waiting room and wakes up back at the Berlin Wall during the war.

› Final Thoughts
• Peter S. Beagle's short stories are adventurous, lighthearted, mysterious, emotional, and funny. They have interesting themes about free will, discrimination, fear, acceptance, friendship, love, and sacrifice. Quite a few of the stories reminded me of classic stories like The Lion and the Mouse, American Tale, and Charlotte's Web. I recommend both of these collections to fantasy readers looking for unique short stories.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending this book for review. All opinions are my own.

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Currently, we’re in the middle of Peter S. Beagle mini-renaissance. In April, Ace Books published The Way Home, containing two novellas set in the world of Beagle’s most famous creation, The Last Unicorn. This month Taychon is releasing two premium “best of” anthologies: The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I (Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories) and Volume II (Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories).

The two volumes span Beagle’s career. The second includes a previously unpublished story (“The Mantichora”) and four previously uncollected stories. Each tale is introduced by the author. As a fan of Peter S. Beagle, I loved the added context to what was many pleasant re-reads. The collections also contains several illustrations and cover art by Stephanie Law. I’m kind of bummed that I only had an eARC and wasn’t better able to enjoy her work.

If I were to categorize the two volumes, I’d say the first is split between fables and stories in which strange things happen to normal people. The second volume is the speculative fiction version of Beagle’s life with other fictional digressions.

Volume I shows off Peter Beagle’s ability to balance of the extremely mundane with the fantastical. I love the generally nonplussed manner in which many of his characters treat the unknown: they just accept things and move on to dealing with the situation.

"I’m seeing an angel, you’re not—this is no big deal. I just want it should move out the way, let me work."
from “Uncle Chian, Aunt Rifke, and the Angel”

These stories aren’t about how the fantastical comes to be, they are about the consequences these things will have in your life.

Volume II perhaps shows a wider range in Beagle’s writing with his most comedic works and his darker stories. It’s also the more uneven of the two volumes. The previously uncollected stories mostly feature young Beagle and his friends as characters. These are fine stories, but they suffer in comparison to a story like “Vanishing” with its shadowy East Berlin and not-quite-likeable protagonist.

If you are a fan of Peter S. Beagle, this is a nice collection to have for the extras. If the only thing you’ve read is The Last Unicorn, there are many tales in these volumes with as much heart and magic. If you’re asking “Peter who?”, you’re in for a treat.

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Volume two is introduced by Neg Elison, who compares his works to being fed pieces if his heart. Any author dredges up parts of their soul for their stories, and this second book is full of heavy emotions as much as the fantastic edge of magic within the ordinary day. The first story, "Sleight of Hand," is a melancholic elegy, grief and love entwined in her journey after the loss of her husband and daughter. As with volume one, the story sets the tone for the volume, and I especially feel that in the story "The Rabbi," where the grief comes in when you least expect it. It's beautiful and cleverly woven in, adding the sense of wonder and mystery to the ordinary world. Peter Beagle wrote about dragons as well as his famed unicorn, in the world of Avicenna that's pretty much northern California. And in that story he appears himself, as the author creating a dragon for a novel and scrapping it, leaving it homeless in Oakland. That's a fantastically meta concept for a story, and it was a really fun read. It's not the only story that Beagle shows up in, though he's not named outright in that one.

Peter Beagle says it perfectly himself in one of his stories: "...the artist isn't the magic. The artist is the sight, the artist is someone who knows magic when he sees it." To our everlasting benefit, we get to see the magic that he did.

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I enjoyed the first "Essential Peter S. Beagle" volume, but it took me a long time to pick up the second one. Some good stories but I found my interest waning in the middle part. This might be my fault but I'm not much of a short story reader and somehow I would've needed something else to capture my interest in parts. 3.5 stars

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An absolute delight to read, and a wonderful way to bring the author's lesser known works to new readers. Thank you to the publisher for the chance to read and review this collection.

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I'm not a short story person. But I found these very interesting to read and I loved having them all collected in one space. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to review this collection.

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The first collection of Peter S. Beagle short stories in this two book series was one of my biggest surprises of the first quarter of 2023. I hadn’t read Mr. Beagle’s work in probably 20 years so I was not ready for how much I loved it. The second volume was very similar in tone and style, with just a few stories that I enjoyed but wasn’t completely sure about.

The strongest stories by far for me were the stories that followed his young friend squad as boys and their ‘magical’ encounters. These are fantastic, the type of ‘Magical stories about kids for adults’ that would make Stephen King and his (slightly obnoxious) child characters weep. They have an adults depth with a child’s wonder and it shines beautifully in the stories.

Besides that the only weak stories for me were those that seemed to borrow from elsewhere. Perhaps they felt dated or old fashioned, or it’s just my preference for those self insert stories, but I struggled a bit with stories such as the werewolf one. Set in Louisiana it focuses on two old werewolves of Creole descent and family as they fight a returned evil. I think I connect and see more of his love for his home town and the topics and peoples he knows in those other stories.

Regardless this collection is still fantastic. I’ve already requested copies for my birthday and I will 100% reread them. I cannot wait to return to the story about the backwoods dragon breeders - I live in moonshine country so that really amused and delighted me.

4.5 out of 5 Illegal Dragon Eggs

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"The essential second volume of bestselling author Peter S. Beagle's (The Last Unicorn) short stories, including one previously unpublished and four uncollected stories, shows again that Beagle is one of America's most influential fantasists. With his celebrated versatility, humor, and grace, Beagle is at home in a dazzling variety of subgenres. Evoking comparison to such iconic authors as Twain, Tolkien, Carroll, L'Engle, and Vonnegut, this career retrospective celebrates Beagle's mastery of the short-story form.

A dilapidated dragon, a frustrated cop, and an unapologetic author square off over a dangerously abandoned narrative. The seemingly perfect addition to a weekly card game hides a dark secret from everyone but her teammate. A deeply respected judge meets his match in Snow Ermine, a gorgeous pickpocket.

From heartbreaking to humorous, these carefully curated stories by Peter S. Beagle show the depth and power of his incomparable prose and storytelling. Featuring a newly published story, "The Mantichora," an original introduction from Meg Elison (Find Layla), and gorgeous illustrations from Stephanie Pui-Mun Law (Shadowscapes), this elegant collection is a must-have for any fan of classic fantasy."

And volume two arriving on the same day!

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These short stories are groundbreaking, heartbreaking, fantastic and very enjoyable. Each one is fresh, incredibly original, unpredictable, and masterfully crafted. I particularly enjoyed "Tarzan Swings by Barsoom" being a big fan of Burroughs, I really loved the approach to this one. And the illustrations in this book are top notch as well. I thought the first volume of Beagle's essential stories was wonderful, but I think I like this one better. I read the entire book in a single day. Really great stuff!

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The second of the "Essential Peter S. Beagle" anthologies, Volume 2 focuses on more recent works. Included are some adaptations from podcast appearances, etc. If you only know Beagle from The Last Unicorn, these will give you a good idea of what else he has to offer.

Standouts in this volume include:

Oakland Dragon Blues - a depressed, modern day dragon written in opposition to Ursula K. LeGuins dragons (as Beagle points out, probably the best way to go)

The Way It Works Out and All - a collection of postcards ostensibly sent to Beagle from an all-knowing correspondent, this borders fiction and memoir in a really fun way!

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Delightful. If Volume One was truly the essential collection, the works he has been known for and that people might bring up when you say, ‘oh, yes; Peter S. Beagle’s short stories, I remember that one,’ this volume is emblematic of the skill, emotional complexity, and sheer fun he is capable of bringing to his writing. There were only a couple that were familiar to me, despite owning most of his published collections (of course, we probably have to allow for my memory, but still). Perhaps the ‘essential’ refers to the essence of a person; most of these works have some autobiographical element, whether it is childhood relationships or the explorations of a dear friend.

The introduction by Meg Elison is brilliant and appropriate; so much better than the prior collection.

Sleight of Hand: classic Beagle about a woman in the initial stages of profound loss. The main character is a little too single-noted to obtain the emotional resonance in his other stories.

Oakland Dragon Blues was just this side of corny, but I love the choice of policeman as narrator. I forgive Beagle writing himself in, because it was fun and has really great bits:

“A creature out of fairy tales, whose red eyes, streaked with pale yellow, like the eyes of very old men, were watching him almost sleepily, totally uninterested in whatever he chose to do. But watching, all the same.”

Just tell me you haven’t walked past an old man like that on his porch.

The Rock in the Park: The fall entry in the childhood series from The Green Man Review. “There are whole countries that aren’t as territorial as adolescent boys.” I adore the idea of the map, and love the nod to the visual arts.

The Rabbi’s Hobby: an unexpected standout that might stay in my favorites. It has the feel of time period fiction, centered a young man experiencing larger-than-life anxiety facing his bar mitzvah. Both he and his rabbi become distracted by series of magazine photographs: “When we were at last done for the day–approximately a hundred and twenty years later–Rabbi Tuvim went on as though I had just asked the question.” A mixture of low-stakes comedy and high-stakes memories.

The Way It Works Out and All: Beagle’s friend Avram sends him a series of unlikely postcards When he runs into him in NYC, he takes the narrator on a tour of the Overneath: “He had been born in Yonkers, but felt more at home almost anyplace else, and I couldn’t recall ever being east of the Mississippi with him, if you don’t count a lost weekend in Minneapolis.”

The Best Worst Monster is a fun little children’s type story of a monster who decides not to monster. A little less heavy-handed than most of the type.

La Lune T’Attend is a modern werewolf tale, more or less, a Creole counterpoint to Lila the werewolf and ultimately, far more satisfying. I loved the dynamic of the two old men.

The Story of Kao Yu is the story of a traveling Chinese judge, his retainers and the unicorn who occasionally visited his court: “China is one of the few countries where sadness has always been medically recognized.” Now this is how to modernize a Judge Dee tale.

Trinity County, CA: You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You! is a modern urban fantasy setting. What if the county needed animal control for all the illegal dragons? Nice interplay of older, experienced worker and ‘new blood’ coming into the job.

Marty and the Messenger is a strange little story loosely based on Beagle and his childhood friends, but with a silly twist. “But I was great on aptitude tests, where you didn’t actually have to know anything.” Definitely captures the feel of potential at that age.

The Mantichora was written especially for this collection. Avram is a researcher who goes to talk with the last mantichora, but pushes his luck: “It went on all night, and by pale morning, A.D. was an older man.”

Mr. McCaslin: another one of the ‘back when we were kids’ stories, Mr. McCaslin was the Irish neighbor suffering from a lung ailment: “We were kids: we had all known people who had died, but never anyone actually in the process, sentence spoken, date of execution set.” When he asks him for a favor, they agree.

The Fifth Season: The last story about Peter and his three friends–he’s almost sure–about a farewell moment in the neighborhood park. Reminded me very much of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes in every way but plot. “He made a soft sound that I can still summon up, even after so much time, and never will.”

Tarzan Swings by Barsoom: of them all, this is my least favorite. Having not been party to Tarzan nor John Carter, it isn’t particularly entertaining, turnabout or no.

The Bridge Partner: a surprising story from Beagle, who I often associate with a more fantastical, dreamy mysticism; this delves into the cat and mouse between a killer and her intended prey. Initially alarming, it was a very good read. One of the ones I recalled, which says something for staying power.

Vanishing: Beagle writes that this was a challenging, ‘kidney stone’ of a story that went through eleven drafts. It’s a curious choice to include in this collection, full as it is of childhood and transitional moments.

The final section contains ‘Abouts’ for each of the contributors: Peter S. Beagle, Meg Elison and Stephanie Law. These were short and sweet. I enjoyed reading more of what Elison is up to since Book of the Unnamed Midwife, but as an admirer of the other two, didn’t contain any new details.

My only complaint, truly, is that my Paperwhite Kindle can’t do justice to Stephanie Law’s illustrations. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more suitable author-artist pairing, and I would love to see these in color. I guess I’ll content myself with her Instagram. Highly recommended for fans of the fantastic and short stories.

Four and a half stars, rounding up. Lovely writing, evocative moods; if each story wasn’t amazing, the collection as a whole is.

Many, many thanks to NetGalley and to Kasey Lansdale at Tachyon Publications for an advance reader copy. As always, my opinions my own. As always, quotes subject to change, but I think they give a lovely flavor of the writing.

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