Origin stories, even those presented after the fact, go a long way in providing the canvas upon which the ethos of a character is painted. "My Soul to Keep" is not just 'humble beginnings' to 'man of the world,' it shoves Donovan DeChance toward his destiny. Do read the introductory material in this collection where David Niall Wilson tells you the origin story of this piece.
MY SOUL TO KEEP & OTHERS contains two other stories that are, according to Wilson, tangential to the next DeChance novel. If I read his prefatory notes correctly, when reading THE DeCHANCE CHRONICLES omnibus, his preferred reading order of these is "The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature" and then "The Preacher’s Marsh."
"The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature" takes place in modern-day Old Mill, North Carolina yet hearkens to a time gone by. It is a pagan tale, from time immemorial, told from the viewpoint of good ol' boys who enjoy nothing better than a cold beer and a day at the fishin' hole.
"The Preacher’s Marsh" is another story from Old Mill, this time during the perilous post-Civil War days. Wilson presents a powerful tale of love, faith and violence in a South that doesn't want change. Few stories of this time in history are as poignant and horrific as this one. I find myself once again comparing United States history with the twenty-first century surge to the past that Americans are experiencing today. Perhaps it is the juxtaposition of past and present that makes this a seminal work for today's reader.
I am now looking forward to the next book in the DeChance Chronicles, KALI'S TALE, to see why Wilson recommended reading the Old Mill stories before reading it.