The Girl in the Glass — (2005) Publisher: The Great Depression has bound a nation in despair — and only a privileged few have risen above it: the exorbitantly wealthy… and the hucksters who feed upon them. Diego, a seventeen-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant rescued from the depths of poverty, owes his salvation to Thomas Schell, spiritual medium and master grifter. At the knee of his loving — and beloved — surrogate father, Diego has learned the most honored tricks of the trade. Along with Schell’s gruff and powerful partner, Antony Cleopatra, the three have sailed comfortably, so far, through hard times, scamming New York’s grieving rich with elaborate, ingeniously staged séances. And with no lack of well-heeled true believers at their disposal, it appears the gravy train will chug along indefinitely — until an impossible occurrence in a grand mansion on Long Island’s elegant Gold Coast changes everything. While “communing with spirits” in the opulent home of George Parks, Schell sees an image of a young girl in a pane of glass — the missing daughter of one of Parks’s millionaire neighbors — silently entreating the con man to help. Though well aware that his otherworldly “powers” are a sham, Schell inexplicably offers his services, and those of his partners, to help find the lost child. He draws Diego and Antony into a tangled maze of deadly secrets, terrible experimentation, and dark hungers among the very wealthy and obscenely powerful. As each cardinal rule dividing the grift from the real is unceremoniously broken, Diego’s education is advanced into areas he never considered before. And the mentor’s sudden vulnerable humanity forces the student into the role of master to confront an abomination that will ultimately spawn the nightmare of the century.
The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant: And Other Stories — (2009) Publisher: At times literary, at other times surreal, this collection offers a diverse range of stories that deal with real-life conflicts, human values, and coming-of-age experiences, all placed within fantastical settings. An author’s search for an elusive Kafka story leads to a potentially cursed book in “Bright Morning,” while in the award-winning “Exo-Skeleton Town,” humans dress in protective exoskins conveying the personas of bygone Hollywood movie stars in order to barter old Earth movies for an alien aphrodisiac. A young boy comes to term with “Creation” when he molds a man out of the detritus of a nearby forest, and in the title story, a great fantasy writer loses touch with the world he has created and pleads with his young assistant to help him visualize the story’s end and enable him to complete his greatest novel ever. An eclectic offering, these witty and modern fables blend mundane surroundings with eerie situations.
Crackpot Palace: Stories — (2012) Publisher: From the unparalleled imagination of award-winning author Jeffrey Ford come twenty short stories (one, “The Wish Head,” written expressly for this collection) that boldly redefine the world. Crackpot Palace is a sumptuous feast of the unexpected — an unforgettable journey that will carry readers to amazing places, though at times the locales may seem strangely familiar, almost like home. Whether he’s tracking ghostly events on the border of New Jersey’s mysterious Pine Barrens or following a well-equipped automaton general into battle, giving a welcome infusion of new blood to the hoary vampire trope or exposing the truth about what really went down on Dr. Moreau’s Island of Lost Souls, Jeffrey Ford has opened a door into a dark and fantastic realm where dream and memory become one.
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