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Born Bad: Collected Stories Paperback – August 23, 1994

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hard, dark, and raw, this collection of 40 short stories and a play provides ample material for Vachss fans. Unfortunately, the quality varies greatly, ranging from the author's earliest, sometimes sophomoric writings to his more current, professionally crafted stories. None of it is light reading. His writing is always on fast forward, curt, terse but it is sometimes blinded by compassion for the victim--most often children who have been sexually, physically or mentally abused ("Watched the little girl testify in court, her tiny hand clutching the magic stone. The defense attorney hammered away at her, like a sweating, fat pig, boring for truffles. But she stuck it out--he couldn't change the truth. I was proud of her."). This passion, understandable though it is, sometimes overwhelms his craft. Revenge is the justice of choice because, in Vachss's world, the legal system is inept, unfair and unworkable. Vachss has a flair for unique twists in the final story lines that will leave readers twisting in their seats as well.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Two short plays and 42 stories from Vachss, who's known for his eight novels (see below) featuring PIs who hunt down child abusers and sex offenders. Most of these could be sketches for his longer works, and a terse introduction bravely dismisses the question of whether or not this volume is literature--rather, he explains, it's simply a necessary extension of his real job (Vachss is a lawyer who represents abused children). Aside from a few standard mini- thrillers with well-timed twists (e.g., ``It's A Hard World,'' about a man on the run from hired killers), the book proves that Vachss has exactly one subject--avenging crimes against helpless victims (boys, girls, and animals). But he's got it covered. Although he experiments with different points of view (rapist, rape victim, prosecutor, mercenary killer), his characters tend toward a single personality profile: careful, quiet, and methodical. Reading these quickies in succession doesn't offer the sustained eeriness of his novels; in most stories, his vigilantes serve justice swiftly, then coolly disappear into the night, after getting off on their well-executed vengeance the way the rapists get off on hurting their prey. Many of the stories have the Vachss staples of buzz-cut sentences and pedagogy on criminal psychology, but the title story may be the most interesting--because it raises the question potentially nagging at Vachss's readers. In the story, a killer writes in a catch-me- if-you-can letter to a criminal psychologist named Doc: ``Serial killer chic has invaded human consciousness. Perhaps you should be studying that phenomenon instead of wasting your time trying to analyze me.'' The relentlessness of this collection treads a thin line, because Vachss definitely has within him a perverse- chic sensibility. Read as a whole, the collection is drab and numbingly systematic--but it's full of exquisitely rendered atmosphere and detail about a world we'd hate to inhabit. Still, what can you do with a thick pile of short stories that even the author claims aren't writerly? -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard; 1st edition (August 23, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679753362
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679753360
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,006,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you have read any of Vachss' novels with criminal-cum-savior Burke as protagonist, you should allow yourself the honor of feasting on his short stories. The title is a play on the world's take of how children are bad seeds, i.e., born with a bad streak, prone to be losers, and addled with overripe genes for destruction; this book is a one-man treatise on why that is, summarily, not true and it's done with the usual minimalist and spare style prose Vachss is by now famous for. My preference is for his short stories, and the why of that is simple: it's a shorter, more rapid, and much more heart-wrenching path to the much-welcomed truth that only Vachss seems willing to tell. For me, he is the male counterpart of the Greek mythological character Cassandra--he comes bearing the truth that no one really wants to hear, but the fact is, once heard, you can't take your eyes or ears off of him. For a nonstop, nonpareil ride into the gloom and doom of what child abuse is, where it emanates from, and possibly the solutions to fix its ugly cast upon the world, read these stories; you will weep and you will cry with joy at the sheer simplicity of it, right along with the cutting-edge prose that digs in and plants its tentacles into your heart.
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Format: Paperback
In his Born Bad collection of short stories, and three plays, Andrew Vachss takes the reader through an underworld which can be found in every major city, around the world. Yet is all too often, ignored by most of society. In this collection of ultra violent descriptive noir, some no more than three pages, Vachss's stories are some of the most powerful you will ever read. His prose hits you like a burst of gun fire, and it will leave many of its readers uncomfortable. Which is exactly what Vachss wants. As in all of his books, Vachss wants the reader to not only learn of, but to feel what a horrible subculture has developed in our nations cities. To feel the pain that many of our children feel, and to experience the horrors, and nightmare world in in which they live. Born Bad will do this and then some. For those who are already familiar with Vachss' books, it is a must read. And for others who are new to noir, or want to take a tour of the underbelly of the urban jungle, or "junkyard" as Vachss calls it. I recommend that you get a copy of Born Bad. This collection will not only make you stop and think, but you will never look at life and people the same way again. This year Vachss has published his latest novel Safe House. An excellent read, and I look forward to more books in the Burke series, and perhaps a Born Bad Collection 2. Vachss ranks with Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, David Goodis, and Thomas Harris as a master of the noir genre.
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Format: Paperback
You'd have to have knocked yourself in the head repeatedly with a ball peen hammer to _not_ appreciate this collection. The taut writing style makes for rapid-fire prose-it's action that moves as fast as you can read. I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point to Vachss' writing-I think his novels provide a deeper message than could possibly be covered in a short story-but once you've read one of the novels, this should be the _next_ book you get
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Format: Paperback
Putting aside Lawrence Block's incredible collections, this
collection of crime and suspense shorts by Andrew Vachss is
one of the best collections I've read. Every one tight and
gripping, not a word is wasted. Shocking and chilling, the
subjects vary from dog fights and getting inside the mind of
a psychopath to standard, hard-hitting crime pulp. The title
story alone is worth the price of admission. These stories
were also illustrated in _Hard Looks_. Includes some Burke
and Cross stories, and Vachss's vision of a horrific future,
"Underground." I can't recommend a book more highly,
especially as an introduction to the no-holds-barred world
of Andrew Vachss.
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Format: Paperback
More than just entertainment, these tales are social statements unto themselves. Takes the reader into the minds and motivations of serial killers, child molesters and rapists. The stories range from how murder raps are beaten to how righteousness and justice happen outside of the courts. Scarier than any ghost story or vampire novel because all of the stories are based on actual cases. Written with irony, twisted endings and thought-provoking content. Changed the way that I view crime and punishment.

Doug Setter, Bsc.
author of One Less Victim: A Prevention Guide and Stomach Flattening
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Format: Paperback
Andrew Vachss is a mystery writer whose work often times reads more like horror. Therefore, it is not surprising that his collection of short stories has the punch of classic short horror fiction. These are dark stroies dredged up from the depths of Vachss's fertile imagination. Usually, they deal with the worst impulses of man, especially the sexual predator. They are not for the faint of heart, but are powerful in their own way.
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Format: Paperback
Oooh, I freakin' love this guy. I've read most of Vachss' books, but Born Bad was my introduction to him back in high school(thank you Mr. Piddington) and still remains one of my favorites. Like the title says, it's short stories here. Some are extremely short and play out like single scenes that could come from a kickazz action film. Vachss is not a razzle dazzle wordsmith like Clive Barker, but there's no need to be poetic here. He's more interested in getting down to the nitty gritty, and that's the way he writes. Vachss has knowledge of the things he writes about, he knows the criminal language and throws in enough classic one-liners for twenty Tarantino flicks. The first batch of stories are varying topics, the next batch follow a mercenary called Cross and his crew. Then we get some cool stories about a post-apocalyptic underground society, followed by more mixed topics. This book is a good introduction to Vachss. Most of his books are Burke novels, and you can start with that series if you want, but Born Bad is a great place to start to really get a good taste of Vachss' style. If you dig it, go ahead and try Burke, but if you can't get enough of Cross and the Underground, pick up Everybody Pays which is basically like Born Bad 2.
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