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About the Author

Andrew Vachss's many books include the Burke novels and two previous collections of short stories. His books have been translated into twenty languages, and his work has appeared in Parade, Antaeus, Esquire, Playboy, and The New York Times, among other publications. He died in 2021.


Drawing on his experiences as a lawyer specializing in child abuse cases, Vachss has gained a reputation in his five previous novels ( Hard Candy ; Sacrifice ) as a portrayer of deviant criminals with warped minds and bizarre modus operandi. The protagonist of his latest raw, scorching story is John, aka Ghost, a coolly efficient hit man and murderer who never uses a gun. Just released from a Florida prison, flinty John scours the nation in search of Shella, a topless dancer and dominatrix who was his partner in crime. When John was arrested three years earlier, Shella inexplicably vanished instead of hanging around to get him a lawyer. John is obsessed with finding the reason for her behavior so he can either punish Shella or forgive her. In Chicago, John meets Wolf, a Native American assassin who makes a deal: John must infiltrate a white-supremacist hate group and kill its leader; in return, Wolf's tribal cohorts will try to locate Shella. Vachss's chilling portrait of the white racist cult, whose members murder blacks, Jews and homosexuals, is the most effective part of a story that otherwise feels contrived. Readers may have trouble identifying with the twisted love affair between a laconic hit man and a dominatrix driven to a gruesome mission of revenge. (Apr.)

"A noir archetype as bare as unfinished furniture. The plot...has been sanded down into a taut monofilament... The prose in Shella is boiled to the bone." --Village Voice

"Vachss tells his story in an understated shorthand.... He seems bottomlessly knowledgeable...about the depth and variety of human twistedness." --The New York Times

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