Lucius Shepard is a grand master of dark fantasy, famed for his baroque yet utterly contemporary visions of existential subversion and hallucinatory collapse. In Dagger Key, his fifth major story collection, Shepard confronts hard-bitten loners and self-deceiving operators with the shadowy emptiness within themselves and the insinuating darkness without, to ends sardonic and terrifying. The stories in this book, including six novellas, are:
"Stars Seen Through Stone" - in a small Pennsylvania town, mediocrity suddenly blossoms into genius; but at what terrible cost
"Emerald Street Expansions" - in near-future Seattle, echoes of the life of a medieval French poet hint at either reincarnation or a dire conspiracy.
"Limbo" - a retired criminal on the run from the Mafia encounters ghosts, and much worse, on the shores of a haunted lake.
"Liar's House" - in the grip of the legendary dragon Griaule, destiny is a treacherous and transformative thing.
"Dead Monty" - a small-time New Orleans criminal ventures outside his proper territory, and poker and voudoun conspire to bring him down.
"Dinner at Baldassaro's" - a gang of immortals debates the future in an Italian resort, only for events to outrun any of their expectations.
"Abimagique" - a glib college loser falls in love with a witch, becoming an involuntary part of a world-saving - or world-destroying - magical ritual.
"The Lepidopertrist" - a small boy on a Caribbean island witnesses the creation of preternatural beings by a Yankee wizard...
"Dagger Key" - off the coast of Belize, the ghost of a famous pirate seems to control a spiral of murder and intrigue; or is someone else responsible