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Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson

Updated on June 17, 2012

A bar unlike any other.

According to Spider Robinson, and his narrator, Jake Stonebender, Callahan's Bar is a place you can only find if you really need to. Run by the illustrious Mike Callahan, this is a bar unlike anything I've ever seen. Well-lit, comfortable chairs, and cheap alcohol, this is the type of place we always dream of finding, but never have. Fast Eddie plays piano, "Doc" Webster rules with puns, and a long list of regulars are there to keep the joint hopping. 

There's a tradition at Callahan's place: you drop a dollar for every drink. You pay your dollar, drink your drink, then you either give your glass back and take 50 cents from the box, or you make a toast. If you're going to make a toast, you step up to the line, drink, toast, and throw your glass into the fireplace. Everyone who steps up to the line gets the undivided attention of everyone in the room.

It's that kind of place. And the reason why, you'll never find it in this world. Can you imagine what we could do if we all stopped focusing on our own problems just long enough to help out someone with there's? And that's really what's at the heart of Callahan's, Callahan's Law, if you will: "Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased—thus do we refute entropy."

A group like no other.

The patron's at Callahan's are a unique group. Each one has worked his way through some very traumatic times. The narrator, for instance, tells briefly about how changing his own brakes saved him $30 and cost him his wife and daughter. It was Doc Webster who saved his life when he tried to kill himself, and set him on the path to Callahan's.

And each story in the book focuses on similar stories. For instance "The Guy With The Eyes", the first, introduces you to the bar and it's crowd, and an alien who is an advance scout that, for the first time, truly regrets having to destroy a planet. Or "Two Heads Are Better Than One" about a pair of telepaths, one locked up in an institute, the other trying to get to him and failing. In each case, the bar patron's are there to listen and try to lend their insight and assistance to help them solve the problems.

And therein lies my only complaint with the books. They are funny (especially if you enjoy puns), and they are well written and enjoyable. But they all have a somewhat moralistic tone that can wear on you. They are great one story at a time. but it's not one that I would sit down and read in one shot.

Places to find Callahan's

Callahan's Crosstime Saloon is a fun series of short stories and it continues from there. Time Traveller's Strictly Cash and The Callahan's Secret carry on the punny traditions of the original. I also enjoyed Callahan's Lady and Lady Slings The Booze, which move out of the bar (which at one point is destroyed by a nuclear blast) and into the brothel. It seems that all this time Mike's wife has been running a brothel in New York, doing much the same work that Mike was doing, just horizontally. Callahan's Lady introduces Sally McGee (a tribute to Travis McGee of John D. Macdonald fame, who is often referenced in the stories) and her eccentric whorehouse.Lady Slings The Booze introduces a hard-boiled detective brought in to figure out a rather strange series of incidents, incidents the Lady's clientele would rather not have brought to the attention of the police.

There was also a fun video game produced for the PC, Windows 95 and DOS, that toke up the basic premise of the novels and expanded them beyond the bar. You play Jake, who finds himself helping his friends at the bar to solve some mysteries. It takes some puzzle solving and a sense of humor. The background music is performed by Spider Robinson's band at the time, from lyrics that appeared in the stories. It was an entertaining way to kill a few hours back in school.

So, have you read the Callahan series? Any thoughts or opinions on them, I'd love to hear them. I'd also love to hear any suggestions on similar books that you've come across.


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