The latest countdown here at Dispatches from the Macabre Republic will run all month long, and feature thirty-one entries. I figure this is the perfect time to rank the best works of short fiction (stories, novelettes) by Norman Partridge, the writer who carved a modern Halloween icon, the October Boy. Also, Partridge is such a preeminent tale-teller, the usual Top 20 countdown just wouldn’t cut it (I had a hard time even narrowing down to thirty-one, and could easily have filled another list with the pieces that weren’t selected).
These daily posts will be quick-hitters, giving a basic sense of the narrative and highlighting its strengths. In contrast to my previous countdowns, there won’t be extensive discussion of the plot or copious quotation of the text. My goal here is to tantalize more than analyze, and hopefully steer readers to seek out these tales (for a first read, or the first one in a long time).
But enough preamble. Let’s get this October show started…
31. “Save the Last Dance for Me” (1992)
The countdown kicks off with Partridge’s first published story, which introduced readers to his recurrent fictional setting of Fiddler (imagine Castle Rock in California). It’s a tale of teenage romance and dangerous obsession, and features a mysterious late-night radio DJ, the Dark Mistress, who maddeningly seems to be channeling a girl who died years earlier. There’s a nostalgic, Eddie and the Cruisers-esque vibe, and the plot makes haunting use of the classic Ben E. King song cited by the story’s title. A lot gets packed into this ten-page narrative, and the parts might not all fit together perfectly, but “Save the Last Dance for Me” furnishes early evidence of Partridge’s knack for writing evocative tales of dark suspense.