My father recently sent me some of his books after my parents moved to a smaller home in Oregon. Included in the mostly newer books were a few old ones from his college days. Among them was the original 1945 version of "Best Stories of O. Henry". Anyone familiar with American Literature knows of William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry. He is famous for his short stories that lead you down a path which swerves, at the end, in a direction you hadn't anticipated. Along the way are many colorful characters out of American life around the Turn of the Century (That's the Turn of the Century BEFORE this latest one). Not only are his characters a worthwhile part of every story, his settings often give another interesting view of life 100 years ago. All this evolves in stories that often are no more than 4-5 pages in length. These snapshots almost always conclude with an ironic and/or surprise ending. His best known story, which is the opening selection in this collection, is "The Gift of the Magi". The other story of his that I always recalled, "The Ransom of Red Chief", is also in this book. It's one of the handful of longer stories and runs a whole 12 pages. Among my favorites "discoveries" in this collection are "The Cop and the Anthem", "A Blackjack Bargainer", "Squaring the Circle", "The Pendulum", "The Last Leaf", and "The Count and the Wedding Guest". There are 30 other stories in addition to the ones I've cited. Some went a bit long which sounds strange to say about a short story. However, one gets used to the rhythim of O. Henry and certain stories take you out of that rhythim. Some stories may not conclude in as surprising a manner as others but they are still worth a look at life and customs a century ago.
According to the Editorial Review shown above, O. Henry wrote over 600 stories in his life. I'm not interested in reading that much of his work. However, I'm glad I read these 38.