Tad Williams – Bobby Dollar

Tad Williams is better known for his science fiction and fantasy but for a short period he delved into contemporary fantasy with three books around Bobby Dollar and his girlfriend Cassandra. I’ve only read the first one, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, but it was so intriguing that I hope to read the other two, Happy Hour in Hell and Sleeping Late on Judgement Day.

Bobby Dollar, the main character, is an angel trying to be angelic but there’s a part of him that can’t quite get there, a harshness that enables him to survive when he’s operating in the dark. That edge is also what attracts him to Cassandra, who he believes needs saving.

Tad Williams 2

I want to see how much trouble he will get into with his shrewd “get the job done attitude” and his much opposite need to believe Cassandra’s troubles. To be fair, they may be as they have been stated in the book. I just have my doubts. In this world, people, even angels, are never so easily defined as “good” versus “evil” so for him to believe that Cassandra needs saving makes perfect sense.  He wanders back and forth over a thin boundary between heaven and hell. At one moment, he’s firmly in heaven’s camp, trying to defend people even when they don’t deserve it, and giving them a chance. The next moment, he’s drinking straight from a bottle or bombing around town in his loud car.

The muscle car he drives, a 1971 Matador, blasts through the traditionally quiet and contained image of angels and leaves me wondering why he is an angel and what are the rules for angels? His mysterious past had horrific moments that still keep him awake, even though his past was erased. Is this where the duality comes from? Who is this angel who isn’t very angelic?

The oh-so-human attitude that drips from him when explaining the rules to his trainee, Clarence hints at a wider discontent with heaven and headquarters imperfections. Angels should be more likely to have a good relationship with headquarters so what kind of heaven is this?

Despite all these questions, Bobby Dollar is authentic with his brash, almost stereotypical New Yorker or Bostonian attitude. Who couldn’t enjoy an angel like that?

HIs hidden past, his love of living just a shade dangerously and his realistic discontent intrigue and tantalize me – what’s really going on here and who has the truth? Bobby Dollar has enough secrets from himself and everyone else to get himself into trouble at any turn.