This Is The Website of the Novelist and Story writer, Jeffrey Ford
If you are interested in my published works, this is a good place to learn what's out there. Also, for news of publications, reviews, interviews, and readings and signings, see the News section of this site
portrait by Gerard Wickham
A Natural History of Hell -- Small Beer Press, coming July, 2016
A Natural History of Hell is my forthcoming collection from Small Beer Press due out in July of 2016. It contains 13 stories. Here's a little write-up of it
Emily Dickinson takes a carriage ride with Death. A couple are invited over to a neighbor's daughter's exorcism. A country witch with a sea-captain's head in a glass globe intercedes on behalf of abused and abandoned children. In July of 1915, in Hardin County, Ohio, a boy sees ghosts. Explore contemporary natural history in a baker's dozen of exhilarating visions.
If you want to order way early, you can pre-order at Amazon.com
Feedback from early readers of A Natural History of Hell --
"Jeffrey Ford can pull off any kind of story he damn well pleases. I was sure of that before I even reached the end of this excellent collection. By the end he'd accomplished more than I would've imagined possible. A Brief History of Hell offers genuinely disturbing moments but it also veers into high comedy. There's bits of myth and history, heartbreak and profound insights. I've been a fan of Ford's for years. Every new book he publishes is a reason to celebrate."
-Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom
“Combining legend and suspense, terror and darkly comic social commentary, Jeffrey Ford brings our greatest fears to life in this terrific collection. A Natural History of Hell is jammed with stories I wish I had written.”
“Jeffrey Ford is a true heir to his teacher, John Gardner—not only in his ability to inhabit an astonishing range of styles and different worlds with jaw-dropping verisimilitude, but also in the great-hearted compassion and depth that he brings to his characters. I have long admired and learned from his work, and I’m grateful to have these beautiful stories to contemplate.”
“Delightful, terrifying, thoughtful and incredibly well written. Jeffrey Ford’s style is eloquent and accessible, literary and engaging. His stories have an engrossing, almost mythological feel to them, strengthened by well-placed descriptions, impeccable pacing and Ford’s rare talent for delivering a satisfying ending.” — Catherine Grant, Huffington Post
A starred review from Publishers Weekly! — “seamlessly blends subtle psychological horror with a mix of literary history, folklore, and SF in this collection of 13 short stories, all focused on the struggles, sorrows, and terrors of daily life.”
Crackpot Palace -- Morrow/Harper Collins coming Aug. 2012
Starred Review, Shelf Awareness
Crackpot Palaceby Jeffrey Ford
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Speculative fiction has produced several great practitioners of the art of the short story whose critical acclaim matches that given to more traditionally "literary" writers. With his fourth collection of short stories, Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford is positioned to join such luminaries as Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison in that inner circle.
Ford's stories are stuffed with so many ideas, weird scenes and startling denouements that it is hard to summarize them. In "Down Atsion Road," Ford mixes urban legend, a ghost story and the New Jersey Pine Barrens to chilling effect. While his inventiveness is unmatched, he is also a master of psychological realism. There is a gritty day-to-day aspect to some of his tales that adds a degree of verisimilitude to events most genre writers wouldn't have a clue how to sustain. In "Every Richie There Is," a mentally challenged neighbor's slow disintegration from cancer and madness is chronicled with devastating skill. Finally, Ford's sense of the place where the weird intersects with the beautiful is unsurpassed; "Dr. Lash Remembers" is a steampunk gem where dream, sickness and hallucination are layered into disorienting new patterns.
With Crackpot Palace, one has a chance to read a collection by a true master of the short story. For lovers of the weird and fantastic and lovers of great writing, this is a treasure trove of disturbing visions, new worlds and fully realized craft. --Donald Powell, freelance writer
Discover: 20 fantastic and disturbing visions, including the never-before-published "The Wish Head," from a master of the short story.
Kirkus Reviews --
The fourth collection of stories from Ford includes examples of fantasy, science fiction, neo-steampunk, noir and a few genre-busting curiosities.
The longest piece in the book, “The Wish Head,” is a haunted police procedural set in upstate New York in the mid-20th century. “The Double of My Double Is Not My Double” doubles down on the rich history of the doppelganger; it is funny, morbid and very clever. “Every Richie There Is” is a dry-eyed look at our inevitably mixed feelings about our neighbors. “Glass Eels” smarts like a sliver of glass under a fingernail. To all but one story, Ford adds a note. These notes pay homage to generous editors, describe flashes of inspiration, explain references and enlighten the ignorant. One note contains a bonus track, an additional story.
Ford finds his way into scenarios infernal, haunted or merely strange, and keeps his wits about him on the journey.
Library Journal Review of Crackpot --
Ford, Jeffrey. Crackpot Palace: Stories. Morrow. Aug. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062122599. pap. $14.99. F
Within the fantasy genre, Ford (The Shadow Year; The Girl in the Glass) is not a writer who is easily categorized. This collection showcases not only the range of his imagination but, based on his own notes describing the origins of many of the stories contained in this collection, also the depth and breadth of his personal interests in science, history, culture, and the human condition. Nor does Ford remain close to the shore of reality merely dipping a toe or finger into the fantastical from time to time. Instead, he wades—often waist-high or deeper—into the often murky waters, deliberately entangling his narrative in the inescapable undertow one finds there. It is here Ford’s writing skills truly shine as he deftly draws the reader into his tale—whether it be one of an ancient science experiment gone awry as in “The Dream of Reason” or the smoke-filled atmosphere of a Prohibition-era jazz club in “Polka Dots and Moonbeams.”
Verdict Recommend to readers willing to explore many facets of fantasy writing. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/12.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT
Monsters and Critics Review
Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror ReviewsBook Review: Crackpot PalaceBy Sandy Amazeen Jul 30, 2012, 2:41 GMT
This new book of from the Edgar Award winning author of The Girl in the Glass is Ford’s fourth short story collection that is certain to delight his fans and generate new ones. Ford’s imaginative writing almost always delivers a strange twist to what at the onset, seems like a perfectly ordinary story as demonstrated in “Daltharee” which begins with a thriving city in a glass bubble but turns into something else entirely. “Relic” tells the tale of Father Walter in charge of a church and relic at the end of the world. When a visitor takes a piece of the relic with her, Sister North sets out on a journey to the beginning of the world to get it back but is the precious item truly a relic and does it matter? In an attempt to fit in with his girlfriend’s family, a young man agrees to sit in church overnight with her recently deceased relative in “Sit the Dead”. What happened that night will haunt him for the rest of his life. Anyone who thinks daddy longlegs are cute, harmless spiders will reconsider after reading the chilling “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening”.
Although most of these were previously published, it is a delight to have them brought together. Each story includes background information about what served as inspiration, the intended message if any and where it first appeared in print. Ford excels at creating vividly imagined, finely nuanced characters and settings, frequently with an unexpected dark side that drags readers along on a short but exhilarating ride. These are great good fun and highly recommended.
Rajan Khanna's review "Like a Meaningful Dream" for TOR.com
Gary Wolfe's review for Locus Magazine
John Stevens's Review for SF Signal http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2012/11/this-strange-and-mercurial-world-jeffrey-fords-crackpot-palace/
The Drowned Life -- Harper Perennial 2008
There is a town that brews a strange intoxicant from a rare fruit called the deathberry—and once a year a handful of citizens are selected to drink it. . . .
There is a life lived beneath the water—among rotted buildings and bloated corpses—by those so overburdened by the world's demands that they simply give up and go under. . . .
In this mesmerizing blend of the familiar and the fantastic, multiple award-winning New York Times notable author Jeffrey Ford creates true wonders and infuses the mundane with magic. In tales marked by his distinctive, dark imagery and fluid, exhilarating prose, he conjures up an annual gale that transforms the real into the impossible, invents a strange scribble that secretly unites a significant portion of society, and spins the myriad dreams of a restless astronaut and his alien lover. Bizarre, beautiful, unsettling, and sublime, The Drowned Life showcases the exceptional talents of one of contemporary fiction's most original artists.
The Drowned Life won the World Fantasy Award for Best Story Collection in 2009
The Shadow Year -- Morrow/Harper Collins 2008
In New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy laments the approaching close of summer and the advent of sixth grade. Growing up in a household with an overworked father whom he rarely sees, an alcoholic mother who paints wonderful canvases that are never displayed, an older brother who serves as both tormentor and protector, and a younger sister who inhabits her own secret world, the boy takes his amusements where he can find them. Some of his free time is spent in the basement of the family's modest home, where he and his brother, Jim, have created Botch Town, a detailed cardboard replica of their community, complete with clay figurines representing friends and neighbors. And so the time passes with a not-always-reassuring sameness—until the night a prowler is reported stalking the neighborhood.
Appointing themselves ad hoc investigators, the brothers set out to aid the police—while their little sister, Mary, smokes cigarettes, speaks in other voices, inhabits alternate personas . . . and, unbeknownst to her older siblings, moves around the inanimate residents of Botch Town. But ensuing events add a shadowy cast to the boys' night games: disappearances, deaths, and spectral sightings capped off by the arrival of a sinister man in a long white car trawling the neighborhood after dark. Strangest of all is the inescapable fact that every one of these troubling occurrences seems to correspond directly to the changes little Mary has made to the miniature town in the basement.
Not since Ray Bradbury's classic Dandelion Wine has a novel so richly evoked the dark magic of small-town boyhood. At once a hypnotically compelling mystery, a masterful re-creation of a unique time and place, a celebration of youth, and a poignant and disquieting portrait of home and family—all balancing on a razor's edge separating reality from the unsettlingly remarkable--The Shadow Year is a monumental new work from one of contemporary fiction's most fearless and inventive artists.
The Shadow Year won the world Fantasy Award for Best Novel (tied with Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels) in 2009
The Shadow Year (novel) Harper Perennial 2009 Trade Paperback
"Jeffrey Ford is one of the few writers who uses wonder instead of ink in his pen." -- Jonathan Carroll, author of The Wooden Sea
"Jeffrey Ford’s latest triumph, THE SHADOW YEAR, is as haunting as it is humorous…readers will recognize real talent in Ford’s vivid, unerring voice." -- Louisville Courier Journal on THE SHADOW YEAR
"Properly creepy, but from time to time deliciously funny and heart-breakingly poignant, too. For those of you—and you know who you are—who think the indispensable element for good genre fiction is good writing, this is not to be missed." -- Kirkus Review, Starred
"Surreal, unsettling, and more than a little weird. Ford has a rare gift for evoking mood with just a few well-chosen words and for creating living, breathing characters with only a few lines of dialogue." -- Booklist
"Think Ray Bradbury’s Green Town stories, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Stephen King’s The Body (made into the film Stand by Me) and you get an idea of the tone of Ford’s latest fine work. Grade: A" -- Rocky Mountain News
The Girl in the Glass (novel) Harper Collins 2005 Trade Paperback
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, owes his salvation to master grifter Thomas Schell. Together with Schell's gruff and powerful partner, they sail comfortably through hard times, scamming New York's grieving rich with elaborate, ingeniously staged séances -- until an impossible occurrence changes everything.
While "communing with spirits," Schell sees an image of a young girl in a pane of glass, silently entreating the con man for help. Though well aware that his otherworldly "powers" are a sham, Schell inexplicably offers his services to help find the lost child -- drawing Diego along with him into a tangled maze of deadly secrets and terrible experimentation.
At once a hypnotically compelling mystery and a stunningly evocative portrait of Depression-era New York, The Girl in the Glass is a masterly literary adventure from a writer of exemplary vision and skill.
The Girl in the Glass was the winner of The Edgar Allan Poe Award from The Mystery Writers of America in 2005 for Best Paperback Novel
The Empire of Ice Cream (story collection) Golden Gryphon 2005 Hardcover & Trade Paperback
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In "Coffins on the River," one of several autobiographical stories in Ford's outstanding second collection of fantastic fiction (after 2002's The Fantasy Writer's Assistant), the narrator remarks: "[T]he ideas would fly like bats at sundown, like phone calls from our creditors." Whether drawing on his past as a schoolboy (in the previously unpublished "Botch Town"), a clam digger ("The Trentino Kid") or an adult returning to his childhood home ("A Night in the Tropics"), Ford uses such incongruously lyrical phrases to infuse the everyday with a nebulous magic that erases the line between reality and belief. Sorrow is always quietly present, even in pieces of pure whimsy such as "The Annals of Eelin-Ok," "The Green Word" and "Summer Afternoon," and it becomes more prominent in three tales of people created by others' imaginations: the surreal "A Man of Light," the bittersweet "Boatman's Holiday" and the Nebula-winning title story. Brief afterwords provide both real-world context and a welcome pause between the intensely engaging stories. Both new and returning fans will be entranced and delighted. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Introduction by Jonathan Carroll and cover art by John Picacio
The title story of this collection won the Nebula Award for best Novelette in 2004
The story, "The Annals of Eelin-Ok," won the Fountain Award for literary excellence in the short story form in 2004
The collections closing novella, "Botch Town," won the World Fantasy Award for best novella in 2007
The Empire of Ice Cream was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of it's 10 best books of the year in the area of Fantasy & Science Fiction
The Cosmology of the Wider World (novel) PS Publishing 2005 Hardcover & Trade Paperback
Jeffrey's Ford's extraordinary fantasy novella, The Cosmology of the Wider World, is a beast epic, a talking animal story in the vein of The Jungle Books and The Wind in the Willows; but this is no ordinary fable. The protagonist, Belius, is a minotaur, a wanderer in strange labyrinths of the mind and body, and his story features sex, drugs and a healthy dose of pyrotechnic metaphysical profundity. There's murder too, an instance of bestiality, and quite a few references to Dante's Inferno...
From his coral tower in the other-dimensional refuge of the Wider World, Belius thinks back on his days in the lesser world of men, where he was born, a shocking anomaly, to a farming couple. His great philosophical work, The Cosmology, is at a standstill, and he realizes he cannot proceed with the book until he comes to terms with his halfling nature: one foot in the human world, one hoof in the animal.
While his friends - Vashti, the owl, and Pezimote, a philandering tortoise - try to help him achieve peace of mind, Belius recalls scenes from his previous life, interspersed with the daily tribulations of the Wider World…via a love story, a literal and figurative inner journey, a bloodletting, a haunting by a ghostly apparition, a bet, a blinding, a prophecy, an act of creation, and an act of climactic destruction, he must come at last to a mad revelation of self.
The Cosmology of the Wider World is an exceptional feat of fantastic characterization and style, a story timelessly mythic yet dazzlingly contemporary.
Introduction by Jeff VanderMeer and wraparound cover art by Kim Deitch
The Fantasy Writer's Assistant (story collection) Golden Gryphon Press 2002 Hardcover & Trade Paperback
From Publishers Weekly
In World Fantasy Award-winner Ford's enchanting first story collection, proof abounds that a fresh perspective or inventive approach can give the most familiar themes fresh life and startling clarity. "Exo-Skeleton Town," set on a planet where human beings dress like classic movie stars to trade old films for the aphrodisiacal excrement of the planet's cinephile beetle population, is a surprisingly poignant tale of lonely dreamers isolated by their inescapable illusions. In "At Reparata," a king's melancholy over the death of his queen achieves independent life in the form of a ravenous moth that threatens to consume the entire kingdom. Ford (The Physiognomy) laces the 16 selections with subtle allusions to Poe, Verne and other literary forebears that give the deceptively simple plots resonance and depth. His most effective tool, however, is gentle humor that softens the philosophical edges and magically transforms the zombie operatives, organic computer salesmen and extraterrestrial colonists into sympathetic characters with recognizable sensitivities and longings. A lion's share of the stories explore the theme of artistic creation from invigoratingly original angles. "Creation" reconfigures aspects of biblical Genesis and the legend of Frankenstein into a moving tale of love between a father and son. "Bright Morning" is a masterful sleight-of-hand in which the author's autobiographical reminiscence of his fascination with Kafka plunges him into a private Kafkaesque fiction. Sure to be one of the keynote collections of the year, this book will be welcomed by fans of literate, witty modern fantasy.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
These 16 stories are credits to Ford, far too good to be left languishing in moldering obscurity in magazines and chapbooks, and on fugitive Web sites. So thanks, Golden Gryphon, for chasing them down and corralling them between book covers. They include "Creation," a nonstrident variation on the theme of Catholic childhood; "Out of the Canyon," set in the West and involving a curse; and the title story, which says a great deal about writing and fantasy (library trivia lovers will rejoice in the nonhuman assistant's name: Ashmolean). Then there is "The Honeyed Knot," which draws on Ford's many years teaching writing and the specific experience of having had a rapist-murderer among his pupils. The other 12 tales show off Ford's thematic reach, and one can't help noticing his command of language and skill at slowing the pace almost to stasis without becoming boring. Good stuff and good examples for short-story writers. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Introduction by Michael Swanwick and cover art by John Picacio
The Fantasy Writer's Assistant won the World Fantasy Award in 2002 for Best Collection
The short story, "Creation," won the World Fantasy Award in 2002 for Best Short Story
The short story, "Exo-Skeleton Town," won France's Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire for best short story in 2005
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque (novel) Morrow/Harper Collins 2002 Hardcover
From Publishers Weekly
Ford expertly created a surreal alternate landscape in his acclaimed fantasies The Physiognomy and Memoranda; here, in his fourth novel, sepia-colored old New York is the fever-dream world. Piero Piambo is the portraitist of choice among New York's nouveau riche in 1893, but his career fills him with self-loathing. When a blind man with uncannily white eyes offers him "a job like no other" painting the mysterious Mrs. Charbuque Piambo quickly accepts, as the hefty commission will allow him to abandon society portraiture. But the terms of the deal are very strange: Mrs. Charbuque insists that she will hide behind a screen; to divine what she looks like, Piambo may ask her questions, but not about her appearance. It soon becomes clear that she will not be interrogated; instead, like a possibly "unhinged" Scheherazade, she mesmerizes Piambo with her story of growing up convinced she possessed psychic powers conferred on her by twin snowflakes. Piambo's opium-addicted friend Shenz convinces him to investigate his mysterious model, leading them to interview a deranged "turdologist" who sheds light on her past. But then Piambo is assaulted by a man identifying himself as Mr. Charbuque, demanding to know why the artist is "seeing my wife." And there are other dangers about, as the city is under attack by a parasite that eats "the soft tissue of the eye" and causes its victims to weep blood. Add dangerously unstable characters speaking with delicious floridity, unexpected bursts of macabre humor and violence, and a gender-bending subplot that subtly picks up steam, and you have a standout literary thriller.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-A true literary thriller. In New York City at the turn of the 20th century, Piambo is a young artist earning his bread painting "corrective" portraits of plain society wives, beautifying them for the canvas and their husbands. He has a crisis of conscience when one woman, standing under her portrait, leans close and whispers, "I hope you die." As he restlessly wanders the streets that night, a blind man approaches, claiming to know him by his dishonest smell, and offers him the commission of a lifetime: paint a portrait of his employer and receive compensation so grand that he will never have to paint another wife. The catch? Piambo will not be permitted to see Mrs. Charbuque. She will sit behind a screen, and he may ask her questions; from the answers he is to divine her essence. If he captures her likeness, compensation will triple. From this irresistible premise, Ford devilishly spins his story in prose so controlled-yet so dark with underlying fever and inevitability-that it calls to mind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The philosophical and psychological aspects loom large, and Mrs. Charbuque is a near-masterpiece-part sphinx, part hydra, the stuff of the most potent myths. A subplot involving a possible plague adds some hardcore spookiness and, of course, points back to Mrs. Charbuque. This book is smart, spellbinding, and sure to knock any teen's favorite suspense/horror tale from top place to second.
Emily Lloyd, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque (novel) Morrow/Harper Collins Trade Paperback 2003
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford
William Morrow, 310 pp., $24.95 The toast of turn-of-the-century New York society, Piambo is a portraitist of extraordinary skill who seeks to escape the mundane world of the rich. He wishes the freedom to create a masterpiece worthy of his abilities. Then, the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself. He is offered an improbable sum -- enough to retire into a life of leisure -- to paint the portrait of Mrs. Charbuque. There is but one catch: He must never see her. The pair begins a series of meetings during which Mrs. Charbuque tells Piambo her life story. Her tales -- magical, lyrical, and often fantastic -- alone are worth the price of the book. Indeed, Ford has stocked his story with one eclectic and fascinating character after another, from the eponymous Mrs. C. to Piambo's opium-addicted best friend, Shenz, to the artist's charming girlfriend, Samantha. Even the lesser characters are well-conceived and interesting. Perhaps the least interesting person in this book is our protagonist, who in any ordinary book would shine. But The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque is anything but ordinary. The 1890s New York City portrayed in Ford's novel made me believe he had somehow visited that age; his vivid and engaging historical perspective adds yet another layer to this incredible story. As if the premise weren't enough, New Yorkers start dying in a horrible, mysterious way, and Ford deftly weaves this strange plot twist together with his vibrant cast and bizarre tales. All of these disparate elements culminate in a shocking -- and ultimately satisfying -- conclusion. Ford, who himself has created a masterpiece, dedicates his latest novel to "Lynn," calling her "singular, mysterious, and beautiful." Those three adjectives are eloquently fitting in summing up this marvelous, elegant book.
By Rick Klaw for The Austin Chronicle
The Beyond (novel) Book 3 in The Well-Built City Trilogy Golden Gryphon Press 2009 Trade Paperback
An excerpt from the Kelly Everding (Rain Taxi) review of the entire Well-Built City Trilogy @ Powells Book blog http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=5636
The third book of the trilogy, The Beyond, departs structurally from the first two books and is told from the perspective of Misrix, the demon from the Beyond. Because of his unique psychic abilities -- he had helped Cley meld minds with Below -- Misrix recounts Cley's journey into the Beyond to search for Paradise as well as ask for forgiveness from Arla, the women he so cruelly disfigured. Arla had married a native of the Beyond, gave birth to a daughter, and eventually departed for her husband's village in the Beyond. Before leaving, Arla gave Cley the green veil as the birth of her daughter miraculously erased the disfigurement he had wrought. (The green veil turns up at the end of Memoranda, coming out of the dead mouth of Below: "a thought had taken on physical actuality.") It is a miracle, but it also is a constant reminder of Cley's guilt. The green veil accompanies him, along with his loyal black dog, Wood, whom Misrix calls "a guardian angel the color of night, muscled and scarred and harder to subdue than a guilty conscience." Cley reads to the dog from a book that, through their harsh travels, loses all of its pages. But this does not deter Wood, who stubbornly carries the book boards to Cley to "read" to him. "Why would a dog care about stories?" asks Cley of his tree-friend Vasthasha, and the "foliate" responds, "He knows they are what the world is made of."
Misrix's tale is told in scraps and images, recounting Cley's progression through the wilds of this strange land as he battles the horrifying creatures that inhabit it and befriends natives and mystic beings along the way. Cley moves toward his redemption undaunted by obstacles and fears, even abandoning new responsibilities and loves he encounters, and keeps his mind focused on his goal. Ford's tale likewise wends its way beautifully, depicting a hero's journey into the unknown -- honing his strengths, stripping away weaknesses, and transmogrifying this greatly changed character until he is reborn anew.
Memoranda (novel) Book 2 in the Well-Built City Trilogy Golden Gryphon Press 2009 Trade Paperback
Publishers Weekly Last year, Ford's The Physiognomy won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. Here's a worthy sequel. In the first book, Physiognomist Cley helped bring about the destruction of the Well-Built City, a technological marvel where foreheads, cheekbones, chins were measured in order to determine the moral character of the populace, and where mismanaged science controlled every aspect of life. Now Cley has moved to the primitive village of Wenau, where he works as a healer. His idyllic existence is ruined when the evil Master Below, the ruler of the destroyed Well-Built City, sends a sleeping sickness that quickly spreads throughout Wenau. In order to save his friends, Cley returns to the ruined City to find Below--and an antidote. Once there, however, he learns that Below himself has been stricken by his own poison. Below's misbegotten demon son Misrix offers to help Cley enter the sleeping Below's mind to seek out the cure. "To decipher the symbols, you need only read the Physiognomy of Father's memory," Misrix explains. Yet traveling through the subconscious of a madman may well be more dangerous than the sleeping sickness itself, for there Cley must interpret a surreal landscape of events, objects and characters, even as they distort his own thoughts. Reading Ford's vivid descriptions of Below's bizarre subconscious is like stepping into a Dal painting. Ford's symbolic view of memory and desire is as intriguing as it is haunting--though the book ends with more questions than it began. Admirers of The Physiognomy will prize this book, while trusting that the next (and conclusion to the trilogy), The Beyond, will clarify Ford's views on the nature of mind and reality. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
The Physiognomy (novel) Book 1 in The Well-Built City Trilogy Golden Gryphon Press 2009 Trade Paperback
Kirkus Reviews Humorless, inflexible, drug-addicted physiognomist Cley is ordered by Drachton Below, Master of the Well-Built City, to investigate a theft in the remote mining town of Anamasobia. The miners of the town, while delving for blue spire—a coal-like mineral that eventually turns the miners into blue statues—have discovered in a cavern the living mummy of a strange being, the Traveler, holding a perfect white fruit (now missing) that Below believes will confer immortality. Cley pronounces the guilt or innocence of the townsfolk by studying their physiognomies, but he becomes distracted by the beautiful and knowledgeable Arla, whose father Cley suspects of having stolen the fruit. In a delusional frenzy brought about by withdrawal symptoms, Cley attempts to improve Arla's disposition by mutilating her face according to physiognomic principles—but then the Master impatiently sends in troops to slaughter the townsfolk and capture Arla, the Traveler, and the fruit; Cley is condemned to the sulphur mines. He is later pardoned, deliberately re-addicted, and brought back to the Well- Built City, where Drachton Below, having eaten the white fruit, is suffering headaches so dreadful that they're causing explosions and threatening the destruction of his empire. Can the reformed Cley defeat the mad Master and save Arla and the Traveler? Seriously, logically, stunningly surreal: a compact, richly textured, enthralling fantasy debut—even if the publishers prefer to bill it as an "unconventional literary novel."
The covers of the three Well-built City novels are each part of a triptych created by the artist John Picacio. Here's his website http://www.johnpicacio.com/update.html
The Physiognomy won the World Fantasy Award in 1998 for Best Novel
Vanitas (novel) Space & Time Press 1988
Who was the mad inventor Scarfinati? Whence came his mysterious powers? What dark secret caused him to meddle in innocent lives? His bizarre life story unfolds at the Carnival of the Dead, where a young woman seeks his spirit's forgiveness for accidentally killing him -- and nothing is as it seems!
"Shades of Lovecraft and Bradbury make for an absorbing, fast-paced horror/sf/mystery..." -- The Bookwatch
"Ford plays with words like a literary master, weaving his twisting tale gently in and out among his characters..." -- Knoxville News-Sentinel