Salsa Nocturna Stories, Daniel José Older

I have gotten to the point where I can no longer say I’m iffy about short stories. I’ve always loved them, but novels take up so much more space in my brain that I forget how great they can be every. single. time.

It’s not the worse problem to have, of course – a terrible memory means I get to experience that unexpected burst of joy whenever I venture into short story territory. I’m not even picky about genre the way I am with longer books, I suspect because a short story is so much less of a commitment. I can read it in two or five or thirty minutes, and if it wasn’t my favorite, no great loss. I’m not emotionally over-investing, so I have a lot of leeway for experimentation.

Older’s stories fall into the urban fantasy category, and since I wasn’t expecting that when I got the book from my mother, it turned out to be a lovely surprise. While I’m willing to read just about anything under ten pages, the special place in my heart where urban fantasy lives is absolutely infinite. I just devoured this book, with its sweet, interconnected character arcs, each story building on the delicate tales that had come before.

The author manages to capture a New York City that is almost tastable. The overly sweetened coffee with unfiltered cigarettes, cologne masking sweat, rot and the sewer rushes – it all blends together to create a space on the edge of life and death in one of the world’s most vibrant cities. He sweeps the unbelievable in with the want-to-haves, writes friendships as tough as his characters are fragile. Older hovers in the margins of the city, and in doing so, casts his spell over any reader who has been there herself.

He doesn’t shy away from horror, but underneath the creepiness, his gentler heart shines through. He is an optimist, at least on the page, and his characters reflect a kind of friendly hopefulness that seems to run counter to the horrific settings they find themselves in. The balance worked for me though – too much terror and I wouldn’t have made it through the second story, too much light and I would question the true shape of his created world. Swaying in between the extremes, his stories found my happy place and took up residency there.


For more about Daniel José Older, head over here.

13 thoughts on “Salsa Nocturna Stories, Daniel José Older

  1. Thanks for your post! I was looking for some short horror stories to read and blog about in October. I’ll check out his works. Cheers!

    1. I’m glad to hear that! They have a healthy dose of humor, which I need in order to handle the freakiness (and, well, life in general!). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

  2. I still remember how I was too terrified to read “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie as a kid, when I was alone at home… Nothing like a good horror or suspense story. Also, writing a short story is very challenging, something I have come to find out for myself.

      1. I know! Thankfully I have a little dog now, a parson russell called Piper, she’s very fierce and likes to follow me everywhere… In case one of those scary characters ever jump out of the books I insist on reading, I’ll have my buddy ready for them ;)

  3. I struggle with short stories, I don’t know why but I just can’t quite get in to them. I wish I could as my reading time is horribly limited at the moment, and it would be great to be able to read something self contained than pick up my neglected novel to read a few more pages while wondering what on earth happened previously as I read it so long ago! This looks worth a shot – thanks!

    1. I know what you mean! I definitely have to be in the right mood for short stories, and I’ll always love the novel more, but since I have so much fun writing short fiction, it’s been good for me to explore how other writers make that length work for them. I especially enjoyed these because there was that character link between so many of the “chapters.” It made it feel almost episodic, like television, or a podcast. It’s a different sort of thing, and I’m hopeful you might enjoy them!

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