Fabulist Ludwigsen (In Search Of and Others, 2013) returns with a fresh collection of surreal tales from the dark side.
As in his previous volume, Ludwigsen uses a popular television show as a rough framework for his eerie tales. This time, the early 1960s late-night show is called Acres of Perhaps and is clearly standing in as a cheaper, more oddball version of The Twilight Zone. Our narrator for this primary story is Barry Weyrich, a writer haunted by his perceived lack of talent or ambition. “I was just Barry Weyrich, the guy who wrote about spacemen in glass bubble helmets, who put the commas in everyone’s scripts, who never had writer’s block, who grimaced when they talked about 'magic,' " he tells us. His frenemy among the other writers is David Findley, an “eloquent drunk” whose expansive imagination fuels the show’s strangest episodes and who turns out, in the end, to not be quite whom he represented to his friends. A handful of interstitial entries scattered between four more stand-alone stories offer synopses of episodes from Acres of Perhaps along with wry show notes. “The Zodiac Walks on the Moon” offers a peek inside the head of the Zodiac killer and his take on the moon landings. “The Leaning Lincoln” echoes some of Stephen King’s more grounded stories, with a tale of a small leaden toy that brings calamity with it. Other than the title story, the collection’s cleverest attraction is “Night Fever,” an oral history that imagines that Charles Manson was imprisoned during the 1960s and emerged fully obsessed with the Bee Gees in the days of disco. Ludwigsen ties things up with the elegiac “Poe at Gettysburg,” which imagines the erratic poet as president delivering a very different version of the Gettysburg Address.
Evocative tales of alternate realities steeped in the ethos of Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury.