Bowes, Richard. “Dust Devil on a Quiet Street”, Lethe Press, 2013.
A Haunting Memoir
Some people are fortunate enough to lead remarkable lives and others are lucky enough to write about them. When these two combine we are the benefactors and get a terrific book to read. This is the story of a Boston-born and New York City raised writer that will have you turning pages as fast as you can. Richard Bowes tells a story that is riveting and that gives us a look at a life that makes most of us feel like our lives are mundane and boring. From his early years he met hustlers and others who prepared him for what he was going to deal with as an adult. We relive his life but with him guiding us through the world of New York City that we shall never see again except in words and we sense the nostalgia and the eeriness of the place—so real that we can almost reach out and touch it. Here is a combination of speculative fiction and memory and the ghosts of Bowes’s life and city will haunt us long after we close the covers.
Narrated by an unnamed science fiction writer who thinks back on his life, we are taken back in time to a New York that was experiencing a renaissance of revivals and retro culture. Then we go to a funeral—of a local critic, Robin St. Just, whose death is the catalyst for our narrator to remember and to investigate what happened. We see the New York that tourists don’t get to see and that is vibrant and alive in its own way. Memory and imagination come together in what I now understand to be a fictionalized memoir of years of living in Manhattan a city that is filled with magic that just could be real but not be so real. There are strange happenings here and we feel the author’s presence throughout. We return to Stonewall and we relive the AIDS epidemic once again and we watch the city change for better and for worse. New York is a city that has beauty and terror, danger and joy and where every step in any direction is a movement that matters. We do not get books like this often so we must cherish them when we do. Prose and story are brought together in a novel that makes us think and question and to me; at least, that is what good literature does.