cover image The Off Season

The Off Season

Jack Cady. St. Martin's Press, $23.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-312-13574-4

In this satirical and elusive broadside at what he admits is a version of his hometown of Port Townsend, Wash., Cady (Street), who's won both a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award for his dark fantasy yarns, creates a curious pastiche that echoes unequal parts of The Divine Comedy, Alice in Wonderland, Pilgrim's Progress and Don Quixote. The operative conceit here is that five citizens of ``Point Vestal''--a bookseller, a bartender, an antiques expert, a retired pastor and a newspaper editor--are writing this book, a history of the town. But that's not an easy task, since Point Vestal is a very strange place, overpopulated by ghosts and refusing to be fixed in time: the narrative opens in a year that is both 1973 and 1893. This blurring of dates honors the cataclysmic year that Joel-Andrew, a defrocked Episcopalian priest, came to town, eventually to confront August Starling, the local reincarnation of evil. Featuring a disenfranchised physician, a dancing cat fluent in seven languages, a magical Presbyterian Parsonage (with an all-seeing tower, a personality and an unruly wanderlust) and many extras, the story line winds its eccentric way toward a microcosmic Armageddon. While Cady's first three novels--The Well, The Jonah Watch and McDowell's Ghost--remain his best known, they are also his most traditional. His subsequent experimentation with horror forms, as in this caustic fable, may not win him a huge new readership, but it is admirable and worthy of note. (Oct.)