Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits
by Cate Gardner
Strange Publications (2010)
I won a copy of the erotic horror anthology, Cthulhurotica, from Cate Gardner back in March, along with which, she sent me a copy of her own short story collection, Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits. Well, as curious as I was to see what Cthulhurotica had to offer, I was even more curious to finally dive into a heaping pile of Cate's short fiction, as I've enjoyed the stories of hers that I've found across the internet with various online magazines.
If you're unfamiliar with her work, I guess you could say she specializes in the weird, because many of her stories are told in such a way as if you're seeing them through a funhouse mirror. "Fantasy" is a broad brush that might not do her work justice, so I'll stick with "weird."
There's over twenty stories in this collection, of varying lengths and styles. After a nice introduction from Nathaniel Lambert, the book kicks off with a one page story called "Dandelion Fluff" that works well to set the tone for the rest of the book.
A few of the standout stories for me were "The Forest of Discarded Hearts", "The Sulphurous Clouds of Lucifer Matches", "Frog and the Mail Order Bride", "The Moth Brigade", and "Trench Foot". Some stories have been published before, like "Trench Foot", which I first read online at Fantasy Magazine, while others are brand new, appearing for the first time in this collection's pages. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd likely go with "The Moth Brigade" for its blend of science-fiction and fantasy--and I'm a sucker for a good robot story.
So many of the stories have a whimsical feel to them, they border on the surreal. And what stories don't start off with a feeling of falling down the proverbial rabbit hole, carry the sensation of having already face-planted into Wonderland with a resounding thwap. Cate's stories are invariably fun to read and I look forward to when she starts cranking out the longer works, as well.