Ralph Robert Moore
Reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Ralph Robert Moore is an eclectic and talented novelist (Father Figure, As Dead As Me, Ghosters) and short story writer (his collections include Remove the Eyes, I Smell Blood, You Can Never Spit It all Out). Based in Texas, he has been published in many different countries.
Endowed with an uncommon ability as a storyteller, Moore has an uncanny imaginative power which makes his work a kaleidoscope of ideas, addressing unsuspected, unpredictable aspects of human life.
His latest collection, Behind You, assembles eighteen short stories or novelettes, three of which are unpublished so far, and the others previously appeared in magazines or anthologies. Moore’s fiction is always extremely enjoyable, never boring or ordinary, always apt to surprise and/or unsettle the reader.
Among the material featured in this hefty volume, I’ll mention the stories that to me appear the more accomplished.
“Even the Cops Didn’t Make Jokes” is an excellent tale of urban horror but also a psychological study of two women, an elderly lady with an impossible pregnancy and a lonely social worker trying to get on with her life.
“You Dry Your Tears If They Don’t Work,” featuring two priests and a Latino kid, is an engrossing but puzzling and deeply disturbing tale.
In the bizarre, surrealistic “All Your Faces Drown in My Syringe,” a couple experiences weird body changes and fast-running pregnancies that will leave the reader flabbergasted.
As you may have noticed, the author has a knack for incredible titles, but is also able to create strange stories with apparently plain and deceivingly innocent titles, such as “The 18,” a disquieting piece about an upset recent widower, where the concept of “doppleganger” is pushed to the very extreme.
Two of the stories original to this collection particularly deserve to be mentioned.
“Pickle Juice” is a strong, vivid novelette portraying a young Indian vamp blending sex and psychological domination. The unexpected ending is quite horrific.
“The Goldfish Trick” is an insightful tale where Moore, at the top of his game, depicts the break-up of an ill-assorted couple (a boy in his twenties and a woman pushing forty), masterfully describing the sexual inhibitions and the inner emptiness of two people whose lives meet just for a little while.
My favorite story, however, remains “Not Everything Has a Name,” an outstanding piece for various reasons: a) A marvelous outset depicting the events of a lifetime by means of the changes in the content of a closet; b) The superb description of what happens during and after a pool shooting between a young fool and a tough dude; c) The gradual passage toward sheer, offbeat horror and a breathtaking ending.
Great fiction, highly recommended.