Vintage Treasures: Fata Morgana by William Kotzwinkle

Vintage Treasures: Fata Morgana by William Kotzwinkle

Fata Morgana William Kotzwinkle-small Fata Morgana William Kotzwinkle-back-small

William Kotzwinkle isn’t much talked about today. Now that I think about it, he didn’t get as much attention as he deserved 30 years ago, either.

That’s likely because of the fact that, while he wrote a fair degree of fantasy, he was chiefly published by mainstream publishers. His World Fantasy Award-winning novel Doctor Rat (1976) was published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf, and The Bear Went Over the Mountain (1996), about a bear who finds a manuscript buried in the woods and uses it to become a New York literary sensation, was published by Doubleday. It was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award. His most famous book, the novelization of E.T., was published in paperback by Berkley in 1982.

Bantam Books released a pair of Kotzwinkle’s¬†popular early¬†fantasies in matching paperback editions: Doctor Rat and Fata Morgana (1977), his fifth novel. Fata Morgana, a genre-blending hard-boiled detective/fantasy, follows Inspector Picard as he investigates a conjurer whose fortune-telling machine is causing a sensation in 1861 Paris. David DeValera at Goodreads has a fine synopsis:

Fata Morgana is a solid mystery with fantasy elements that elevate it from sleuth versus villain into an enigmatic and elusive tale tinged with Gypsy mystery, parlor games and extortionist magic. Inspector Picard, (career descending and body weight ascending), is on the trail of Ric Lazare who is bilking high-society members out of considerable cash. Ric Lazare possesses a machine that foretells the future, but this alone does not explain his hold on those in his circle of influence. Picard investigates with the intention of exposing the salon scam of a medium and his costly advice; instead, he encounters the unknown — Black Magic, Grand Bewitching, the creations of a German toy maker, and a nagging foreshadowing of events, particularly his own demise…

Fata Morgana has been out of print since 1996, but is well worth tracking down. A digital version was published by E-reads in 2012. The Bantam edition above was published in September 1980; it is 195 pages, priced at $2.95. The cover is by Sandy Kossin.

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Thomas Parker

I thought this book was excellent, and much more successful than the better-known Dr. Rat (though there’s some pretty extreme sex stuff in it, which may not be to everyone’s taste.) In some ways it reminded me of Avram Davidson’s Dr. Eszterhazy.

Rich Horton

This book looks pretty cool, indeed!

Aonghus Fallon

I remember this book chiefly for that neat little twist at the end. ‘The Exile’ is also worth checking out. I bought a copy recently (the same edition I bought back in the day and which I had lost) and was struck by how well Kotzwinkle wrote – this despite the fact that the book seems to be largely forgotten.

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