An Honest Thief Summary (Robert S. Kahn)

Robert S. Kahn

An Honest Thief

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The narrator of the title novella, “An Honest Thief,” introduces himself as Bob, an alcoholic, and a thief. Later he says that is not actually his name, since he is still active at his job of stealing, and that he has not had an alcoholic drink for many years. As he talks about his earlier “honest” jobs, it is easy to see that his life is much more satisfactory conducting periodic well-planned thefts. They are thefts that involve no violence. Typically he steals exotic birds that have been illegally imported and sells them to collectors. Meanwhile, he reads, tends to his roses, sometimes picks up a woman at a bar, and invests his money conservatively. He has become a quiet philosopher, and his monologue is an honest look at himself and at the society in which he survives.

In three “Killing Jim” stories, a woman named Sheila asks her lover to kill her husband, Jim. The lover narrates, analyzing feelings that provide commentary on the contemporary mores of sexual relationships. The results for Sheila are never what she intended.

“The Day it Rained Fish” is set in an isolated desert area, just outside the Tohono O’odham reservation in Arizona. Wendell Embry has suffered all his life from being considered an outsider in any group. He does not know who his father is. Possibly his mother does not know. They live in a small trailer where she plies her trade with various men. While attending college, Wendell meets a Native American girl. They seldom talk, but eventually he meets her family.

In An Honest Thief, Robert S. Khan has created a little gem. The stories are engaging and fresh, presented in a deceptively simple prose. They are quick to read, but hard to forget.