Sometimes Bradbury's writing is lyrical; sometimes it's just precious. (And sometimes it's just the wrong word, Ray
, unless you're writing nonsense poetry.) Once I got into the flow of it, however, I was less bothered by his style and enjoyed the story a great deal.
The unnamed narrator is a young writer living in Venice, California, in the late 1940s, at the point when the old Venice Pier's amusements were being closed in preparation for the pier's demolition. (I'm not sure how much of the setting reflects Bradbury's own life at the time, although he did live in Venice for about 10 years - I'm just not clear when that would have been.) After having an eerie encounter with an unseen fellow passenger one night on the trolley, the writer (called "The Crazy", "The Martian", and a couple of other nicknames by various characters throughout the book) spots a dead body amid the underwater remains of an old circus attraction. It turns out he had previously met the old man at the trolley station, and he soon concludes that the man was murdered and stuffed into the former lion cage. As he seeks to learn the old man's name, he meets another elderly neighborhood resident, who tells him someone has been lurking in the hallway outside her room - implying that Death himself is waiting for her. Over the next few weeks, he gets to know other colorful locals and hears more stories of odd odors, shadowy presences, and silent callers - and experiences a few close encounters of his own, growing ever more fearful for the well-being of his neighbors and friends. Before long he allies himself with a house-bound former opera singer, a blind gambler, a police detective with his own half-finished novel, and a silent film star who is not so much reclusive as good at traveling incognito to discover who's behind a growing list of disappearances.
Another great snapshot of by-gone days, esp. so soon after having read John Dunning's Two O'Clock, Eastern Wartime
. I find myself fascinated by these images of the era - it seems so long ago, and so much of the landscape of the time is long gone (like most of Venice's piers), yet the setting is less than 15 years before I was born.