Callahan’s Lady

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

I’m an avid fan of Robinson’s Callahan’s series so when I discovered that he had written more in that universe, I snapped it up, even though it’s not set in Callahan’s itself. This series of four linked stories is, instead, set in Lady Sally’s, a brothel run by Callahan’s wife (the eponymous Lady Sally), which rather than being the usual sort of sordid place that these often are, is instead a ‘house of healthy repute’, where the ‘artists’ deal with ‘clients’ and everyone is happy, in the same way that people are at Callahan’s.

I mostly enjoyed the stories, although I can’t help worrying that Lady Sally’s place feels a little like wish-fulfilment (or is that saying more about me than the author?). As for the stories themselves, the first tells how our narrator, Maureen, comes to work at Lady Sally’s, after being saved from her pimp. The second demonstrates why despite their protests, a teenage boy’s dearest wish is a bad idea; the third is all about control and is probably the creepiest story in the whole book for me, as control is taken away from everyone we’ve come to like. The final story is a bit of a heist and introduces Maureen’s friend, the Professor.

We do meet some regulars from Callahan’s. Mike himself pops up, as do Fast Eddie, Jake (narrator of the Callahan’s stories) and Ralph von Wau Wau, but they all pretty much just have cameos. I think for me the thing that doesn’t quite gel is that Lady Sally’s doesn’t have quite the same empathy of Callahan’s place. Although the emphasis here, as well as there, is on helping people (clients mostly, in this case) it hasn’t got the camaraderie of Callahan’s famous pub, where everyone clubs round to help someone in need. Although Robinson does try to recreate that formula, for me, he doesn’t quite manage it. Also, the whole romance thing in the last story sort of came out of nowhere and didn’t entirely work for me.

Oh, and I didn’t think the puns were as good as those that get bandied around at Callahan’s either.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441090723
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1989

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