Disquieting Aggregations: A Review of Douglas Ford’s APE IN THE RING

There is a gravity to Douglas Ford’s stories that is deceptive in their disquieting aggregations; and if you’re unfamiliar with the offerings from this sapient scribbler, I submit to you an ideal place to begin a highly-encouraged acquaintance.

Ape In The Ring & Other Tales of the Macabre and Uncanny (Madness Heart Press), cover art by John Baltisberger

Ford has assembled seventeen impressive specimens for his collection, Ape In The Ring & Other Tales of the Macabre and Uncanny (Madness Heart Press, edited by Flora Bernard).  The stories showcase both Ford’s narrative fluency and literary dexterity, as well as his thematic preoccupations.  Along the inky tracts of Ford’s nearly twenty tales, he compels readers to confront the vagaries of family dynamics (some heinous — see “Thief In The Night” — and some poignantly deteriorative — see the phenomenal and heartbreaker-of-an-opener, “Wasps”), the guises of gutless grifters, and generally the paths of poor choices.  The title story, “Ape In The Ring,” concludes the collection with a pummeling, with one clenched fist toned in the vein of Donald Ray Pollack, the other bearing the connective tissue of classic Bradbury.

Read more about author Douglas Ford at Goodreads.

While the substantive circuitry of the stories is composed of high-quality wiring, what I appreciate (and enjoy) the most is Ford’s commitment to interpersonal dialogue.  For writers, convincing dialogue is, of course, action in itself, and so it stands to reason that Ford’s stories have a certain traction and momentum — one that is (as I’ve stated above) seductive in its quiet command.  The result is exchanges which echo and linger, unsettlingly in both their implications and ostensible simplicity.  “Is he happy now?” one of Ford’s characters asks another.  “Does he still scream?”
With Ape In The Ring, Douglas Ford displays an ease with his distinct execution of storytelling and his vivid visions, his didactic dreams — I’m confident that readers will be compelled to follow and accept, as one of Ford’s passages unfolds, “the same way she accepted the dreams that raged at her…”

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