The RedeemerHarry Hole investigates a mistaken assassination
Whether you know him from New York Times bestsellers like Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods and Good Omens, his groundbreaking graphic novel series The Sandman, or modern-day children's classics like Coraline and The Graveyard Book, graphic novel and fantasy author Neil Gaiman is no doubt on your radar as one of modern fantasy's most prominent voices.
The author of multiple New York Times bestsellers and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Bram Stoker, World Fantasy and Eisner awards, Neil Gaiman is a tireless creator. Besides his prolific work as a fantasy author, he’s also written collections of poetry, song lyrics, drama, journalism and film. He is also coauthor, with Terry Pratchett, of the novel Good Omens, and he has frequently collaborated with such musicians as Tori Amos (who has mentioned him and his creations multiple times in her lyrics) and his wife, Amanda Palmer, the lead singer of The Dresden Dolls. His books Coraline and Stardust were also the basis of acclaimed film adaptations, while a BBC miniseries of Neverwhere accompanied the release of the novel. Gaiman is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top 10 living post-modern writers. Originally from England, Neil Gaiman now lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
American Gods 10th Anniversary Edition
The boundaries of our country, sir? Why sir, onto the north we are bounded by the Aurora Borealis, on the east we are bounded by the rising sun, on the south we are bounded by the procession of the Equinoxes, and on the west by the Day of Judgement. —The American Joe Miller’s Jest Book
Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough, and looked don’t-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife.
The best thing—in Shadow’s opinion, perhaps the only good thing— about being in prison was a feeling of relief. The feeling that he’d plunged as low as he could plunge and he’d hit bottom. He didn’t worry that the man was going to get him, because the man had got him. He did not awake in prison with a feeling of dread; he was no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, because yesterday had brought it.
It did not matter, Shadow decided, if you had done what you had been convicted of or not. In his experience everyone he met in prison was aggrieved about something: there was always something the authorities had got wrong, something they said you did when you didn’t—or you didn’t do quite like they said you did. What was important was that they had got you.
He had noticed it in the first few days, when everything, from the slang to the bad food, was new. Despite the misery and the utter skin crawling horror of incarceration, he was breathing relief.
Shadow tried not to talk too much. Somewhere around the middle of year two he mentioned his theory to Low Key Lyesmith, his cellmate.
Low Key, who was a grifter from Minnesota, smiled his scarred smile. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s true. It’s even better when you’ve been sentenced to death. That’s when you remember the jokes about the guys who kicked their boots off as the noose flipped around their necks, because their friends always told them they’d die with their boots on.”
“Is that a joke?” asked Shadow.
“Damn right. Gallows humor. Best kind there is—bang, the worst has happened. You get a few days for it to sink in, then you’re riding the cart on your way to do the dance on nothing.”
“When did they last hang a man in this state?” asked Shadow.
“How the hell should I know?” Lyesmith kept his orange-blond hair pretty much shaved. You could see the lines of his skull. “Tell you what, though. This country started going to hell when they stopped hanging folks. No gallows dirt. No gallows deals.”
Shadow shrugged. He could see nothing romantic in a death sentence.
If you didn’t have a death sentence, he decided, then prison was, at best, only a temporary reprieve from life, for two reasons. First, life creeps back into prison. There are always places to go further down, even when you’ve been taken off the board; life goes on, even if it’s life under a microscope or life in a cage. And second, if you just hang in there, some day they’re going to have to let you out. In the beginning it was too far away for Shadow to focus on. Then it became a distant beam of hope, and he learned how to tell himself “this too shall pass” when the prison shit went down, as prison shit always did. One day the magic door would open and he’d walk through it.
From the book AMERICAN GODS: The Tenth Anniversary Edition by Neil Gaiman. Copyright (c) 2011 by Neil Gaiman. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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