Fiction by Kenneth Butler

	  	Holy Fool cover

Holy Fool cover

Holy Fool

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.

	  	Grigory Rasputin by Karl Bulla

Grigory Rasputin by Karl Bulla

A Pound Of Flesh

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 Apparition by Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

The Apparition by Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

The Ghosts of Swallowtail

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.