By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

Science Fiction Short Story Review: "Goodbye, Dead Man!" by Tom W. Harris

Orley Mattup is a guard at a reactor in Bayless, Kentucky. He and a friend of the narrator, Danny Hern, play a back country card game called high-low-jack. Mattup starts losing, despite all good luck rituals he performs. He’s a sore loser. One night when Uncle Pete Barker, one of the technicians, comes back for a hat he left, Mattup kills him with one of the weapons the Outsiders, who ran the reactor, had given him.

After that, Danny swears he’ll “get” Orley. He teaches himself to manipulate the cards, but this is not how he’s going to get Orley.

The rumors about Outsiders shifter personnel prove true. The narrator is to go to Oak Ridge, Danny to Argonne. The night before they leave, Mattup has an incredible winning streak. He’ll even take the last change out of Danny’s pocket.

This is not a pleasant story, but one about two men who hate each other, who seem to be willing to go to any lengths to inflict damage and pain on one another. I didn’t like it and won’t be reading anything more by this author. It’s not violent and disgusting like Ambrose Bierce’s “My Favorite Murder.” It’s just unpleasant.


Title: “Goodbye, Dead Man!” first published in Imagination April 1958

Author: Tom W. Harris

Source: ISFDB


Last Review: “My Favorite Murder” by Ambrose Bierce

Last Sci Fi review: “Keep Out!” by Fredric Brown



©2015 Denise Longrie

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CoralLevang wrote on September 28, 2015, 11:02 AM

All one has to do is read the news headlines for unpleasant material. I think that's way too much for me and I'll pass on this one..

Feisty56 wrote on September 28, 2015, 11:27 AM

Thanks for the heads-up on this story and author. There are some stories/books/movies that simply are too horrible psychologically to be enjoyable. As a kid of about 8 or 10, I saw a movie that a certain scene and the nauseous feeling it gave me have stayed with me 50 years. This story sounds as if it would do the same.

CalmGemini wrote on September 28, 2015, 11:55 AM

Thanks for the review.Now I would not want to read this story by Tom W. Harris.

msiduri wrote on September 28, 2015, 12:02 PM

That's kind of how I feel. Not that stories have to be sweet and nicey and happily ever after, but there should be some fun or cleverness to them, IMHO. This is just mean.

msiduri wrote on September 28, 2015, 12:04 PM

I don't think it's that much of a shock. I just found it mean-spirited and the people unlikeable. I know there are some movies you see, especially as a kid that you just don't forget. But I'll stay away from this author.

msiduri wrote on September 28, 2015, 12:06 PM

I don't blame you. I'll see if I can't find something that isn't a little more fun next time.

CalmGemini wrote on September 28, 2015, 12:15 PM

Okay,thanks for the thought.Do you have anything in mind?

msiduri wrote on September 28, 2015, 12:33 PM

A ghost story. I just haven't read it yet. emoticon :smile:

AliCanary wrote on September 30, 2015, 8:32 AM

Hm, I would pass on an unpleasant story, but I'm not sure I would ditch the author totally. I've written some horrifying things myself, lol

msiduri wrote on September 30, 2015, 10:23 AM

A judgment call, certainly. I just found it so unpleasant, I'll pass on the rest of his stuff—he seems to have a very small body of work, at least in speculative fiction—unless someone read something that they thought told me they thought was good, I'll elsewhere. And yes, I've written stuff that's fit to be kept next to the Sears catalogue.