James Purdy’s latest collection, Moe’s Villa & Other Stories (Arcadia Books), is not available in North America—you have to order it from the publisher in the U.K. The introduction by John Uecker reads almost like a plea to track this book down. He reiterates praise for Purdy’s writing from such luminaries as Dame Edith Sitwell, Dorothy Parker and Gore Vidal, and ends with: “The reader of these stories will find that they are in the tradition of the finest American story-tellers and are the product of both an imagination which seems to have no limits and a powerful technique which is able to follow it through all its permutations.” It’s true enough, but what a shame we have to keep labouring this point to get Purdy’s work read. Of the twelve stories in this collection, “Reaching Rose” is the finest in Purdy form. It’s about Mr. Sendel, an old gentleman who keeps calling his friend Rose from a phone booth in the local bar. Richard the Bartender begins to suspect something is terminally amiss: “Bartenders, like Delphic oracles, are naturally defined by their very profession as anonymous. They administer haphazardly and are Great Nobodies by reason of their calling.” Great Nobody or otherwise, Richard intuits that Mr. Sendel cannot bear to think that Rose is long gone. The touching finale might bowl you off your figurative barstool. The second finest story has to be “Easy Street,” in which two ancient women lend shelter to a secretive actor. He disappears one day, and the only way the grieving women can discover where he went is to consult their Ouija board. “‘he gone,’ Ouija responded.” Okay, we know this already, but reassuringly the events of the tale spill into “a peaceable kind of half-light that suggests the growing presence of angels from beyond.” The title story, as well as “The White Blackbird” and “No Stranger to Luke” are essentially Gothic mysteries, updated amongst the ruins. The whole collection serves as an intimation to value our writers who are far from the mainstream, Purdy being one of the most superior.