The Dirty Streets of Heaven is the first of a “fantasy noir” series about the angel Doloriel, known as “Bobby Dollar,” who lives on Earth, but works for Heaven. A funny, likeable guy with a lot of angst and ennui for an angel, Bobby narrates the book in a droll style that recalls hard-boiled detective fiction as well as the world-weary narration of noir films. Although he wants to stay out of trouble, Bobby has a way of walking into it and quickly finds himself in the middle of a major incident involving Heaven and Hell. Before long, he’s dealing with demons, angels, monsters, and mysteries concerning the nature of the afterlife itself.
With its hard-boiled sensibility, depiction of the afterlife and first-person narration, The Dirty Streets of Heaven is somewhat different fare from Tad Williams’s other works, which include the epic fantasy trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and the science fiction quartet Otherland. So different, in fact, that when I first heard about the book several years ago, I wondered if it would be as much to my taste as his other works, as angels and urban fantasy aren’t my usual reading.
But Tad Williams has been my favorite author ever since I started The Dragonbone Chair in seventh grade and quickly realized I was reading the Best Fantasy Epic ever (The Dragonbone Chair is the first book of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn). In an astonishing coincidence, Williams spoke at my middle school a few months later, and I discovered that my newfound favorite author was a really nice guy who had grown up in my hometown and still lived in the area. We’ve been in occasional contact ever since, so when a call went out on his website this summer for advance readers for The Dirty Streets of Heaven, I jumped at the chance and found myself with a book that was very different from any I’d read before.
I procrastinated for a few days, admiring the book and trying to prepare myself for the experience of reading it. I don’t know how long this might have gone on, but fate soon intervened. A few days after receiving the book, I went to a party at a neighbor’s house and, passing a table outside, came across a group of people talking about, of all things, Tad Williams! I joined the conversation and ended up telling them that I loved Williams’ work, had met him, and had an advance copy of The Dirty Streets of Heaven.
Completely unsurprised, two of these nice people told me that they had already read The Dirty Streets of Heaven, it was very good, and why hadn’t I read it yet?
I mumbled something, but had no real answer. As the conversation progressed, I realized I was in way over my head. These weren’t just fans or friends of Tad’s:
They were his parents.