by Bente Gallagher (and Jennie Bentley)
So we’ve heard some totally creepy and cool stories this month, haven’t we? True creepiness as well as fictional. I know I’ve gotten chills more than once during October.
As promised, I’m back to talk a little bit about a few of my favorite supernatural stories and books.
And no, I’m not talking about Stephen King. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s written the best book ever on writing, called – coincidentally – “On Writing,” but I can’t read his novels. They give me the creeps. And not in a good way.
Back in the late 1960s, when I was just slightly more than a gleam in my mother’s eye, one of my all-time favorite authors started publishing books. Her name is Barbara Mertz, but she started writing as Barbara Michaels, and a few years later as Elizabeth Peters, when her publisher told her she was too prolific for just one pseudonym.
(Nice problem to have, innit?)
In 1968, she published a book called “Ammie, Come Home,” about a house in Georgetown and the people who lived there. Ruth was a non-traditional romantic heroine for that time: a divorced woman over 40. Pat was a non-traditional hero: also older, and going gray, with a face described as ‘lived in.’ There was a younger couple too: Ruth’s niece Sara, living with her aunt while attending Georgetown University, and Sara’s boyfriend Bruce. And then there were the ghosts. Three of them. I won’t give you the specifics, because I’d really love for you to read the book, but it has bar none the creepiest, most evocative description of possession I’ve ever read. 40+ years after it was written, it still manages to give me chills.
It’s not the only ghost story she’s written; not by a long shot. Most of the Barbara Michaels books are paranormal, and a few of the Elizabeth Peters books have that element too, most prominently “Devil May Care.” A few of my other favorites are “Witch,” “The Walker in Shadows,” “The Crying Child,” and “House of Many Shadows.”
Much more recently – as in last week – I read Jennifer Crusie’s latest novel, “Maybe This Time.” It’s also a ghost story. With multiple ghosts. A few instances of possession. And a lovely, lovely twist at the end. It’s also a love story, of course, as are all of Crusie’s books. She’s another of my favorite authors, although supernatural is not her usual stock in trade. The only other that I can think of off the top of my head was the book before this one, “Wild Ride,” written with Bob Mayer, and it’s about demons. A demon-possessed amusement park in Southern Ohio, loosely based on King’s Island. (I drove past it the first weekend of the month, on my way up to Columbus for the Central Ohio Fiction Writers Conference, and I gazed open-mouthed at the big rollercoaster on our way past; in the book it’s called the Dragon Coaster.) Highly recommended! Both of’em.
Lillian Stewart-Carl has written a ton of books about ghosts. The Jean Fairbairn/Alastair Cameron series (four so far, starting with “The Secret Portrait”) has ghosts in every book, as does the trilogy “Ashes to Ashes,” “Dust to Dust,” and “Garden of Thorns.”
Most of Lillian Stewart-Carl’s books are set in or deal with Scotland, including “Shadows in Scarlet.” Its heroine, Amanda, is a guide at a historic home in Virginia, where she encounters the ghost of Scotsman James Grant, and falls in lust with him. There’s even a sex scene. The first and only sex scene between ghost and human I’ve ever read, and she pulls it off quite well, I might add. I totally bought it. However, when Amanda goes to Scotland to bring Jamie’s bones home, Jamie’s spirit tags along, and when Amanda meets Jamie’s flesh and blood modern-day descendant – and lookalike – Malcolm, and falls in love with him, let’s just say that Jamie’s not too happy.
Read the book to find out what happens. You won’t regret it. Just like you won’t regret reading any of the others.
So what are some of your favorite ghostly books? Care to share?