FULLY DRESSED AND IN HIS RIGHT MIND by Michael Fessier (1954, Lion Books)
“#9 Fully Dressed and in His Right Mind. Like John Franklin Bardin [The Deadly Percheron], Fressier takes a screwball situation and adroitly twists it into something evil.”
-Karl Edward Wagner, “13 Best Non-Supernatural Horror Novels” (Twilight Zone Magazine, 1983)
Fressier passed away many years ago after a long and distinguished career writing for movies and TV. He didn’t produce a lot of novels, which is what makes Fully Dressed memorable.
I like to imagine KEW finding this one in some dusty bookstore or second-hand shop, on the verge of tossing it back, then thinking: “Wait a minute, this looks good.” As I work my way through his “essentials” list, the variety of it never ceases to amaze me. There are days I wonder how big the list might’ve been if he’d decided to publish everything which had impressed him.
Here’s the opening line from the novel:
“I was standing in front of the Herald and somebody fired a shot and I saw a fat man turn slowly on one heel and fall to the sidewalk.”
The victim is the publisher of the local paper. The killer is a nondescript little old man. The narrator of the story is John Price, an everyman who just happens to find himself caught up in events he can’t fathom. The little old man keeps showing up at Price’s favourite hang-outs, freely admitting to the murder and several others which occur in the book. Because the old man, who never seems to have a name, is so harmless in appearance, no one takes his claims seriously. But, when people do get irritated at the old man, they suddenly discover his eyes turn into flaming pits of green fire.
Soon, Price has taken up with an artist who wants to paint the old man’s portrait. But then Price discovers a woman who swims naked every night in a local park lake. She’s apparently some kind of water nymph who serves as the counterpart to the old man. The two mythical creatures exist in a balance, which never does get explained in the book.
I can’t understand why KEW classified this book as “Non-Supernatural”, because there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation for the woman or the old man.
Fully Dressed, is written with a lot of dialogue and not much in the way of character sketching. I can’t help but wonder if it was originally written as a film proposal. It would’ve fit in with a lot of the romantic comedies of the time. Replace the little old man with “Hey Aaaaaabot!” and you’ll see what I mean.
It can also be read in one sitting.