Crackpot Palace: Stories
by Jeffrey Ford
Cover Artist: Derek Ford
Review by Mario Guslandi
William Morrow Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780062122599
Date: 14 August 2012 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
If you're not yet privy to the fact that Award-winning Jeffrey Ford is a very talented and versatile fantasist, you'll get overwhelming evidence from his latest short story collection Crackpot Palace. The book assembles twenty tales (nineteen of them reprints) displaying Ford's eclecticism as a gifted author of dark fiction.
"Down Atsion Road" is a well crafted supernatural story set in the atmospheric Pine Barrens in South Jersey and "Sit the Dead" provides an original take on the vampire theme, served with a touch of humor.
Humor is indeed a frequent component of Ford's fiction as in "Every Ritchie There Is", a funny but compassionate portrait of a dickhead living (and dying) in the narrator's same building. In the quite enjoyable "86 Deathdick Road", featuring the smartest man in the world, a bored husband, a still attractive wife, and an old lady are constantly telling tedious and preposterous anecdotes.
If you're a fan of soft SF you will be delighted by the wonderful "The Hag's Peak Affair", an enticing and deeply disturbing piece which sounds like science fiction but rings more than plausible in showing the terrible results of toying with nuclear energy. Then there's the intriguing "Daltharee" a SF story about a bottled micro-city.
Classical themes are effectively revisited by the author's powerful imagination. In "The Double of My Double Is Not My Double", he addresses in a very original way the subject of the doppelganger. In "The Coral Heart", he provides a vivid fantasy revolving around a potent and peculiar sword.
In the offbeat, superb "Relic", Ford's imagination is freewheeling by telling us about a peculiar relic (a foot) belonging to the disreputable Saint Ifritia, whose life story varies when reported by different narrators.
But Ford has also a knack for crime fiction, although of an unusual nature. "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" is an elegant story with the flavor of the '30s and early '40s featuring a couple of elegant murderers. Then, "Glass Eels" is a very effective, fascinating noir where life is worth less than money.
The volume also includes the previously unpublished "The Wish Head", a splendid detective story with a paranormal side, featuring a coroner with an ivory prosthetic foot and an aged investigator trying to solve the mystery surrounding the surprisingly well preserved corpse of a young girl.
To add more spice to an already juicy collection, each tale (except the new one) are followed by Ford's interesting and entertaining comments, reminiscing about the circumstances under which the story was written and, in some instances, the autobiographical events inspiring it.