This thread is for stories from the 1988 book that haven't been discussed yet. You are invited to add your opinions. There are seperate threads for the best stories: ON THE SLAB and EIDOLONS. This book is in print: http://www.amazon.com/Angry-Candy-Harlan-Ellison/dp/0395924812. Langerhans info page: http://www.islets.net/collections/candy.html. Book commentary by Alex Jay Berman: http://harlanellison.com/review/angry.htm. Harlan audio interview regarding Angry Candy.
"Ellison's fiction hasn't lost any of the edge, the anger, the militantly eccentric insight that has made him one of the most interesting short story writers in 20th-century American literature." (Washington Post Book World) --- "[These stories] combine fantasy in the manner of Edgar Allan Poe and personal confession to say something fresh about grief and the need to get beyond it." (The New York Times Book Review) --- "Ellison is angry again, and that's always a good sign. In this collection, he vents his spleen on Death in 17 stories and a 6000-word introductory essay that rove why many consider Ellison to be the best short story writer we've got." (San Francisco Chronicle)
FOOTSTEPS (1980) is the second story in Harlan’s volume ANGRY CANDY (1988), which he dedicated to Robert Bloch. Of the stories this is certainly among the more Blochian ones. I’m sure Harlan sent it to Bloch the minute it was out of the typewriter. On the surface, it tells the tale of a human/beast night creature enjoying the cuisine in Paris, slaughtering innocent Frenchmen and tourists in the night. The nature of Claire (her name) is revealed gradually, taking the reader by surprise who is led to believe this story would be about a normal American woman visiting Paris and looking for love.
The revelation adds a new twist to the werewolf and vampire literature, as Claire thinks of herself as one of the “children of the night”, a species of night-time monsters that we know as vampires or werewolves, even though what we assume about them is partially incorrect. Harlan also seems to imply that Jack the Ripper might have been a similar creature, although after Bloch’s and his own Ripper stories this can only be a hint. The Paris setting lends a special ambiance to the proceedings and provides a suitable background for the ironic cuisine analogy (“She dined elegantly” etc.) as well as a philosophical background. It is also used as a romantic setting for what is basically a story about passion.
Harlan uses a toned-down, somewhat spare, but calculated language that highlights the actions by not distracting from them. The story’s construction and rhythm revolves around the killings, that is, mostly what leads up to them. The deeds themselves are not described in any detail (it’s not that kind of story), what we hear about are the protagonist’s feelings while committing the acts. She is being aroused, which is the whole point of why she does it, and the psychological insights into the killer are what makes the tale special. In terms of its tone I think it’s fair to call this a noir story.
Having dealt with Claire’s psychology, the ending also provides a solution that is mainly psychological, so much so that one cannot help but feel that FOOTSTEPS is a personal "confession" in disguise. On one level, I see it as another tale about the artist’s struggle, his or her need to find a suitable and acceptable outlet for their inescapable nature. It’s also about finding one’s soul mate (not an uncommon element in Harlan’s writings), someone different from oneself but also different from the rest. It just might be the most unusual love story Harlan has ever written (maybe you’ll agree), and somehow I think it’s quite true to its time (80s to present), perhaps because it strongly emphasizes individuality and sexuality, and it also feels cosmopolitan.
The aloneness of people is one of the central concepts of the story, especially when Patrick reveals to Claire that each of them are the last of their kind (unlikely enough from a standpoint of believability). Being the last one implies a need and an entitlement for protection, which they will give each other if they stay together. The unspoken question is what would have happened, had they not met each other, because, if you think about it, they were incredibly lucky. The meeting obviously did not come about without much risk and travel, even though at least Claire did not look for a compatible partner in any conscious way. People like Claire, who go through relationship after relationship, using up their partners one after another, without finding that ‘special someone’ – they probably stop expecting to ever encounter someone who is on their level. True love is always a surprise, Harlan seems to say, and some might never find it.
Being the last of one’s kind also involves uniqueness, a trait that is especially prominent in artists. This fact, as noted elsewhere, I find buried in a lot of Harlan’s stories, including REPENT and JEFFTY. Claire, like everyone to varying degrees, had to hide a side of herself from the public which defined what she is. By doing so, she gave up something that needed to come out in singular, violent bursts which would have led to her own destruction. How exactly Claire’s life will change after her pivotal encounter with Patrick is left to the imagination. She ceases to be a danger for the world and is thus safe from harm for the first time, which is a basic human need. Harlan also found someone whom he does not have to hide anything from, nor needs he have to constantly hold himself back for fear of doing any serious damage. God knows how many people Harlan has offended, yet Susan has not yet run out in tears (or at least she went back).
Anyway, that’s what I see. If any of it applies, it’s almost a shame Harlan switched the genders – a story ending with a woman finding protection in a man’s arms almost feels too conventional. (Not that a man killing women under bridges would have been less ordinary.) Like I said, Harlan put this story in the second spot directly behind PALADIN, so some may have been disappointed because of that. The rest of us understand that it is where it belongs.
As the original publishing date was 1980, Harlan could have used this one in STALKING THE NIGHTMARE. He also used it as the title story of a 1989 collection I have never seen, and there is a TV version that was done without Harlan, so I probably shouldn't even mention it. My rating:
Addendum: From book purge newsletter.
Harlan wrote this in front window of bookstore Tems Futurs in Paris, from a story set-up by popular French DJ, The Werewolf. Later filmed as a segment of Showtime's "The Hunger" cable series.
Addendum 10/09: The DJ and the staff asked Harlan to create a story set in Paris featuring a rapist wolf woman. He wrote it on May 14th 1980 from noon to 7:30 p.m.