The “crap artist” of the title is Jack Isidore, a socially awkward man who seems a bit obsessive compulsive, fanatically cataloging old science magazines and collecting random objects. He believes that the earth is hollow, that sunlight has weight, and other disproved theories. Broke, he moves in with his sister’s family and joins a religious group that shares his interests in ESP, telepathy, and UFOs, believing the world will end on April 23, 1959.
While the details of the novel involve some paranoiac elements, this is actually a straight fiction novel--nothing otherworldly occurs. Dick wrote a few other mainstream novels early on in his career, some of which were recently reissued by Tor, but for awhile this was the only one of them in print. While I definitely love some of the stranger PKD novels (Ubik is hands down my favorite), this one is certainly worth checking out.
P.S. To the people at Vintage: please repackage these books! They're ugly as sin! Thanks. (Although I guess there is a kind of charm in this level of hideousness. It's almost a way of weeding out the poseurs—only a true fan would be willing to be seen purchasing something that looks like this.)