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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Callahan Touch

Reviewed: October 3, 2003
By: Spider Robinson
Publisher: Ace Books
228 pages, $7.99

Spider Robinson seems unable to rid himself of the Callahan’s Bar legacy. This started out as one of those time honoured contrivances used by everyone from Joseph Conrad to Arthur C. Clarke: a set of tales narrated by the habitués of a popular bar. When he’d reached the end of that string, Robinson revealed that Callahan was a time traveller sent to our era to save the world, that he was finished, and that he was leaving.

But the idea lingered, and soon there were two books about Lady Sally’s Place, which came to a triumphant end during a small nuclear explosion.

Now Jake Stonebender, the narrator of the earlier adventures, is back with his own with his own version of the famous bar, this one called Mary’s Place, and Jake’s really nervous about opening it.  After all, he ‘s trying to recreate the ambience of two previous establishments, places where people of good will could get together and share good booze along with over-the-top puns. Places where damaged people seeking solace could find it. Places where the clientele might include everyone from a talking dog to misplaced aliens and that odd time traveller or two.

Heaven help anyone who ever wandered into Callahan’s or Sally’s places with a load of guilt or the desire to hurt anyone. Chances are they got absolved and turned into regulars.

Plots are often thin in the Callahan books, which are often excuses to string together a batch of tall tales, weird word play, and a kind of golden rule philosophy that we’d all do a lot better to follow.

This outing we get to meet an “unlucky duck”, a man who thinks he started the AIDS plaque, a mythical critter with a bottomless thirst and a computer that turns itself on (it’s an old Macintosh, of course) while apparently channeling ghosts.

As for puns, didja hear the one about the tribal policemen who planted a recording device on a pot smoker? He became the first policeman to wire a head for a reservation.

Jake needn’t have worried. The new place is turning out just fine.

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