cover image The Legend of Charlie Fish

The Legend of Charlie Fish

Josh Rountree. Tachyon, $16.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-61696-394-1

A paean to turn of the 20th century Galveston, Tex., Rountree’s romp of a debut novel (after the collection Fantastic Americana) combines a historical disaster with fantastical elements, including a creature who would fit right in, in the Black Lagoon. Floyd Betts meets orphaned siblings Nellie, a 12-year-old telepath, and Hank, a nine-year-old marksman, while in Old Cypress, Tex., for his father’s funeral and decides to take them back with him to Abigail Elder’s boarding house in Galveston. On the way, Floyd, Hank, and Nellie infuriate a pair of circus charlatans calling themselves Professor Finn and Kentucky Jim by liberating the scoundrels’ big score, a human-fish hybrid the children name Charlie Fish. Nellie’s “whisper talk,” or empathetic telepathy, allows her to communicate with Charlie, who longs to reunite with his fellow fish people. Meanwhile, both Professor Finn and Kentucky Jim and an incoming hurricane pose threats even after the makeshift family is welcomed at Abigail’s. Despite a somewhat unfocused plot, which jumps around in both time and alternates between Floyd and Nellie’s points of view, a sense of looming doom keeps tension high, and Rountree’s talent for scene setting is on full display in lush descriptions of the Old West. This weird western should win Rountree plenty of fans. Agent: Kristopher O’Higgins, Scribe Agency. (July)