The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

From the beginning of his career as a writer, the extremely versatile William Kotzwinkle (who was chosen by director Steven Spielberg to write the novelization of the 1982 film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial) has been interested in the region where realism and fantasy merge and fuse. In Fata Morgana, he explores this mysterious area by combining a conventional detective story with an examination of the unconscious mind of a middle-aged police inspector in Paris in the 1860s.

Paul Picard is an experienced professional, familiar with police procedure and the urban underground of criminals and dropouts. He is a traditional and essentially conservative man, but his desire to enforce justice and unravel the threads of a complicated criminal scheme lead him into a realm where his experience is not sufficient. The world of laws and rational expectations Picard knows is disrupted by the appearance of Ric Lazare, who is witty, socially adept, and possibly the mastermind of an extraordinary conspiracy that may reach into the chambers of the leaders of France, or even beyond, to centuries-old, shadowy organizations that seem to deal in the supernatural.

Picard is intrigued by the challenge and energized by the dangers a pursuit of Lazare would involve, and he begins to search for clues and answers in Vienna, Nuremberg, and Budapest, as well as in the darker, time-worn locations of an older world. During the course of his investigation, he...

(The entire section is 405 words.)