Graham Joyce is not well known in the US, which is a shame. He walked a narrow line between contemporary fantasy and straight mainstream fiction, a twilight zone he shared with the likes of Jonathan Carroll, Lisa Tuttle, and Christopher Priest.
THE GHOST IN THE ELECTRIC BLUE SUIT (published as THE YEAR OF THE LADYBIRD in the UK) proved to be his final novel before his death in 2014, and it’s terrific stuff.
It’s set in a decaying English seaside resort in 1976 and what kicks it off is a young man’s search for the truth about his birth father. The writing is highly visual and vivid, yet clean and unobtrusive. The characters are engrossing and complex, and when the plot kicks in, the suspense is relentless. The novel is unclassifiable–there’s a pinch of the supernatural and a bit of rabble rousing by the National Front; there’s sexual fantasy, psychology, and a Detective Constable in a cheap suit; there’s terror and Englishness and elegy.
Joyce’s compassion for the characters made them surprise me again and again. The book reads quickly but I feel like it’s going to linger in memory for a long time.