Sissy St. Hilaire wakes up in Vermont to learn that her millionaire husband, George, is in a coma after a car accident. George recovers, but he is not the same – he is kinder, smarter, and stunningly serene. George has always been an atheist, a heel, and fervently materialistic; now he is ecstatically spiritual, ignoring money and his business concerns.
When George announces he is abandoning his company and family to become a Catholic priest, Sissy insists that he commit himself for observation. At the mental hospital, Sissy, a serial adulteress, meets young Father O’Toole, a man with a crisis of faith and a roving eye. Sissy realizes she is attracted to O’Toole, who promises to try and help her with her husband’s situation.
Holy Fool is a modern satire that deals with religion, secularism and wealth in contemporary America.
Thirty-three-year-old poet Paxton Graham is recovering in a Boston hospital from injuries sustained when a bomb detonates in a local restaurant. FBI agents inform him that the attack was the work of SLAV, a radical animal rights group, and the chief conspirator is none other than his wife, Erika. Paxton's big problem with this information? Erika's been dead for six years, a result of an accident caused by Paxton's drunk-driving.
Despite doubts and uneasiness, Paxton refuses to believe the agents' claim and after losing his job, apartment and pet hamster all in the same afternoon, decides to take up a business offer from undertaker and furniture entrepreneur Chauncey Alexander MacFarland, Jr. Paxton travels to a sleepy town on the New England coast to manage one of Chauncey's stores, live quietly, and attempt to stay sober.
Here he encounters Hayley, and eighteen-year-old poetry freak (and fan of his obscure work) who he allows to complicate his already unmanaged life; a public sex scandal ensues, transforming Paxton into a local pariah while he uncovers more evidence that Erika may in fact be alive. Once again he is recruited by Chauncey, this time into a clandestine transaction involving Grigori Rasputin's preserved penis.
Paxton and Hayley travel through the wilds of Maine to the late sexologist Wilhelm Reich's labortaory/museum, where a kidnapped dog-food heiress, Hayley's claymation pornographer boyfriend, and a dwarf African-American albino drag queen all contribute to a shoot-out involving SLAV, the FBI, Russian terrorists and lesbian girl commandoes.
Paxton survives the climax (abandoned by Hayley), but the end takes him to San Francisco for a surprising ending in the Cable Car Museum at North Beach.
The Ghosts of Swallowtail deals with a number of matters – morality, for one, as well as sex, religion, and faith – but the supernatural dominates the story.
Peter Rand, dissipated, cultivated, paradoxically engaging, is the new drama teacher at Swallowtail, an all-girls prep school near Boston that has several resident though long-quiescent ghosts from a perverse past. Chief among them is Aloysius Blackwood, a nineteenth-century practitioner of the occult arts and a sexual deviant suspected of two horrific murders. Rand becomes sole witness to the renascence of Aloysius and his minions. He is also plagued by more mundane distractions: sexually provocative students, an unbalanced headmaster, his irreverent play productions, and middle-aged hypochondria aggravated by decades of heavy drinking.
A near-breakdown followed by a series of alarming manifestations and glimpses of nightmarish creatures on the edge of reality, drive Rand to undertake his own metaphysical research and to a final confrontation with the horrors buried beneath the Swallowtail School.
A blend of terror, suspense, satire and theological speculation, The Ghosts of Swallowtail is also a mixture of the macabre and comic.