HAUNTED The Ghosts that Share Our World by John Pinkney

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HAUNTED is the type of ghostly chronicle that permeated my teen years. After experiencing several “events” that could not be satisfactorily explained, I became obsessed with reading every ghost tale I could get my hands on. I became a devout fan of the writings of Elliot O’Donnell, Ghost Hunter extraordinaire.

Of course years later I found out that O’Donnell was not above stretching the truth about his experiences with things that bump in the night and, in fact, outrightly lied about some of his investigations. This information did not deter me in my search for others who’d had the dubious pleasure of encountering things that weren’t of a solid substance.

As I got older, I read other authors who would also be “discredited” in their tales of supernatural occurrences, most notably were the chronicles of the Amityville Horror by several writers who may or may not have been pulling the proverbial wool over the public’s eyes. This “high-profile” haunting in a house that already had a tragic and obscenely violent past was thrust into international prominence when a “true” account was published in the 1970’s about a family driven from their home by evil and scary apparitions.

Despite the continued debunking of most of these stories of poltergeist, ghostly  apparitions and unexplained sightings, I kept on searching for more books on the unexplained.

As I got older and I continued to experience things that could not be explained easily (if at all) and hearing first hand accounts from people who seen and felt things scarier than I had, I kept reading. Oddly enough, I stopped after it appeared that I was among a minority of people who even cared about the supernatural and/or paranormal aspects of our world.

Books were becoming difficult to find and the ones you could glean from the sparse supply out there were from supposed “clairvoyants, mediums and psychics.” The quotation marks are there because I do not have a lot of faith in professions that are rife with charlatans.

Now with the popularity of such television programs as  TAPS Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International, et al; books are popping up that are stepping back. Back to the days of my youth and Elliot O’Donnell. The main difference is that these “new” relayers of urban myths and legends are more often than not, skeptics themselves. They aren’t of the same flamboyant ilk as O’Donnell and prepared to pad out their recounting of ghostly happenings.

They just relay the facts and show the readers the photographic evidence (if there is any) and leave up to us whether to believe or not.

*This must be the longest preface to a review ever.*

Elliot O'Donnell (b: 1872 - d: 1965) photograph courtesy of Goodreads
Elliot O’Donnell (b: 1872 – d: 1965) photograph courtesy of Goodreads

Author John Pinkney is a skeptic (like many other chroniclers of ghosts and ghouls) and he is careful to not overindulge his scepticism. In this book, he relays stories of well-known and not so well-known ghosts in “the land down under” aka Australia ‘cobber.’ His collection of tales include the old favourites: theatrical ghosts, TV and radio spectres, Cinema creatures and residential poltergeist as well as the non-residential sort. He also visits legendary haunting sites; such as the Aboriginal Drowning Pool where tourists mustn’t even think of taking a dip in this pool for if they do, they most likely will not live to talk about it. 

I have just finished reading a trio of paranormal parables and Pinkney’s was the last one. Looking on Goodreads, his books seem to have a bit better rating than most. I imagine it has to do with his presentation. He is very good at making the interviewees out to be normal people, which of course, they are. His sources include, town politicians (I know that no politician can be trusted but most will not willingly make themselves look foolish), pillars of the community, vicars, priests, military men, et al.

He also allows the humour and the tragic pathos to lie cheek and jowl beside one another. His stories reveal a depth that is only fitting for such a richly diverse and fascinating country. While some of the stories give off the odour of urban legend, it has been adapted to fit the landscape of its occurrence.

His choice of tales also ranged from the 1800’s to present day. A nice range of time periods and a broad spectrum of ghostly rumblings to fill the pages of his paranormal publication.

If you care to look at John Pinkey’s Goodreads author page you’ll see that he’s  written at least ten books on the subject of unexplained events. Considering the care and effort that went into this book alone, I think it is fair to assume that he has expended the same writing traits in his other works. I will be hunting down and reading all his titles.

Although, I may be a bit smarter in future and read them in the safe light of day instead of in my darkened bedroom with the small reading lamp being my only source of light. One does start to feel a bit uncomfortable after a while and those familiar shadows take on a different feel altogether.

I’ve given this book a 4 star rating. I loved it, but, according to the “Goodreads star template” I did not find it amazing. I think that old Irish ghost hunter Elliot O’Donnell was the last supernatural chronicler who was able to amaze me and I was a lot younger in those days.

If you are interested in things that go bump in the night, give it a try. Just remember to leave a lot of lights on if you decide to do your perusal after dark.

Author John Pinkney.
Author John Pinkney.

Ash by James Herbert: The Final Journey

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I will admit that I had no idea that another David Ash book existed until I read the obituary-type articles after James Herbert died this month. Despite my obvious shock at the news that one of my favourite horror writers (he has always had a place of honour in my very small stable of great horror master’s) had been dispatched to the great unknown realms of death, I was intrigued  enough to buy an eBook copy for reading.

As a grand finale or final gesture, it was the best David Ash story yet. Although, if you look at the reviews on Goodreads, it appears that I am in the minority of readers who actually enjoyed the book. I am left wondering if those critical of the tale even read the same tome that I just finished. It is, to be frank, puzzling.

In this last ever David Ash investigation, David has been obligated by his employer Kate McCarrick to find the cause of the violent hauntings at Comraich Castle; a sanctuary for the criminal rich who can afford it. Run by the shadowy and overly influential Inner Circle, the castle’s dangerous spirits have already injured one paying guest and the spokesman for the Comraich, Sir Simon Maseby wants the haunting stopped at all costs.

While travelling in the Castle‘s private jet, David meets Dr Delphine Wyatt, the exotically beautiful psychologist who works at the retreat and who will turn out to be his only ally in his upcoming battle with the ancient evil that is trying to destroy Comraich Castle. An evil whose power has grown beyond all expectations and is aided by a living evil who also wants to destroy the Castle and all those in it.

James Herbert’s last book has everything but the kitchen sink in it. He has returned to his roots as a writer and once again has grabbed his readers by the lapel and screamed in their face.

I loved it.

His story of the intrigue and the corruption that permeates the government and the royal family is mesmerizing. The depiction of the “inner circle'” group who orchestrates the cover-ups that prevent the royal’s and the government from horrific publicity is, quite frankly, scary on its own. Add to this the evil that has grown so powerful that it can harm living beings and influence their actions makes this mix of terror damn near too scary for comfort.

There are a bunch of Scottish wildcats who “haunt” the hunting grounds around the castle that will give you nightmares and they are just a small portion of the evil things that lurk in the shadowy recesses of the castles halls and dungeons.

I could not turn the electronic pages fast enough as I became immersed in David Ash’s last ever case. When I finally reached the end of the book, I let out a sigh of relief and sadness as I realised that I’d never again get to vicariously live through any further David Ash adventures.

I am going to miss James Herbert’s prodigious output of work, he averaged a book a year, and not once was I unimpressed with his story and the originality of his plots and the comfortable feelings that his characters evoked. Unless of course they were scarily evil then the feelings that they generated were not of a comfortable ilk.

In my humble opinion, which is the only opinion that I can have, it is the best David Ash yet. It is always a very bittersweet experience reading the  last ever adventure of one of your favourite characters. I had the same feeling when I read the last ever Travis McGee book. Of course that was slightly different as I read the book before I’d learned of the author’s (John D MacDonald) passing. But the feeling was the same when I thought of the book.

So Rest In Peace David Ash, may you never be forgotten as one of the most believable creations of the fertile mind that was James Herbert.

A real 5 star ending to a 5 star character.

Author James Herbert promoting his last book on the bbc September 2012.
Author James Herbert promoting his last book on the bbc September 2012. RIP James.

Taken by Adam Light: O. Henry Eat Your Heart Out

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Adam Lights short story Taken throws a different light on the usual tales of abduction. Here is a  protagonist whose secret trauma is not revealed until the very last of the story and it helps to give an O Henry ending that quite surprised me.

I have only just discovered the delights of Adam and Evans Light and their twisted world of horror and the unique way they write about it. I’m rapidly becoming a fan and I’ll be continually dipping into their new books as they write them, like a literary humming-bird darting into their different stories for a taste of sweet sinister terror.

Both the authors can be found in the realms of Goodreads and what a pleasant discovery they are. If you aren’t familiar with their work, check out the Goodreads site and keep your eyes peeled for some of the special deals that these two talented writers are a part of. Kindle  deals abound and you can sample the terror filled treats that are becoming a staple of the two brothers.

I’ve only read two of the brother’s work and as I mentioned above, I am rapidly becoming a fan of their original ideas and very different story lines. I know that the title of this post is somewhat deceiving in that it looks like I am going to be addressing the story Taken its own. But being a short story, I would give way too much of the plot away.

I will say it deals with a long distance driver who loves his stay-at-home partner too much. So much in fact that he’ll do anything for her. It’s a great read and entertaining.

Check both Adam and Evans stuff out, if their stories were edible, I’d say, “They’re finger-licking good.”

Author Adam Light.
Author Adam Light.

A definite 4 star tale just for the unpredictable twist at the end.

 

 

The Wide Game by Michael West: Top-Notch Terror

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Author Michael West has exceeded himself on this re-release of his first novel, The Wide Game. When this book was originally published it was only 249 pages long and had (presumably) a huge amount cut by the publishing house. Weighing in at a full 395 pages you get a lot of bang for your bucks in this Scare-ground ride of a book.

I will admit to being a huge fan-boy of Mr West’s work since “discovering” him on Goodreads. He has leapt onto the shelf of my favourite authors and will no doubt remain there. I first read Cinema of Shadows and after getting hooked on his writing style and the type stories he wrote, I started devouring everything I could read by the man.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Michael West will become as popular and as renown as Stephen King. There is a point in the book that is an apparent nod to King’s Pet Sematary and quite possibly to Salem‘s Lot. Not to mention a big “wink” to Children of the Corn. He definitely has that same “cinematic” touch that KIng has perfected over the years and Michael is the only other writer who can startle me so much.

He is that good.

The Wide Game introduces us to Paul Rice who has returned with his wife of six years, and their two children, to his childhood home of Harmony, Indiana for his ‘Class of 88’ high school reunion. Unfortunately for Paul this will not be a loving walk down memory lane. It will be a nightmarish “reliving” of the terrifying 1988 Wide Game.

The Wide Game is based on local Indian customs. The indigenous tribe in the Harmony area were called (oddly enough) Miami Indians and they were the “bringers of the corn” to Harmony. The game is a race through the corn fields that surround the town. Each year the Senior Class pays a fee to enter the race. Who ever wins the race (the finishing line is a flooded quarry) gets the “pot” and this year it is a thousand dollars.

Amazingly the Wide Game has a bloody history. Previous contestants have died or killed themselves. Or vanished. Despite the infamy connected to the game high school students participate in the race every year.

We get to meet a young (and old) Robby Miller, who we’ve met before in other Harmony books.  His high school years were split between school and working part-time as a paramedic for the towns fire department. We also meet Deidra, Paul’s old flame and first love. We follow the class and the main participants of the game and watch as the events spiral out of control and culminate in a horror filled night of demonic scares and death.

Paul has lived with the ghosts of his classmates deaths and a love for Deidra that has never gone away. He must face his past;  his demons and Deidra.

Michael West has once again taken us to Harmony, Indiana and scared the bejeezus out of his faithful readers. The action moves with all the deadly purpose of a runaway steam train. A train that is full of menace, death, demons, and fear. Like his other books, I could not stop reading this tale and at times I gripped the edges of the book with white knuckles while my eyes raced down the page. I can also attest to the fact that this book actually instigated a nightmare while I was reading about Paul and his classmates.

If you have not encountered Mr West’s superior horror fiction, I implore you to do so. Right now.

This is a full 5 star stunner of a book.

Author Michael West and a Colony Bay resident.
Author Michael West and a Colony Bay resident.

ARBOREATUM by Evans Light: The Apple of His Eye

UnknownARBOREATUM by Evans Light is a novella length story about  two settler families who have branched off from their main wagon train because of the religious rantings of their self-appointed leader, Lemuel. He  claims to have had a revelation about finding the Garden of Eden in the middle of the prairie that they are attempting to cross.

After the two families get lost and are starving, they find a valley that looks like Lemuel might just have been right. Unfortunately their way is blocked by a non-welcoming party of four indians. This doesn’t stop Lemuel though, he immediately blows one of the “warriors” head off and his friend and follower Sam Jenkins follows suit.

After all four of the indians have been murdered, the families take possession of this apparent paradise, things go wrong very quickly and it looks like they’d have been better off listening to the “locals.”

At 75 pages this just taps into “novella” territory, but the story moves at a good pace and I do have to say that I was impressed by the storyline and the twist. I certainly did not see that coming. So in terms of plot and plot devices, I was very pleased surprised. Something that does not happen too often these days.

My only complaint was the dialogue and some of the sentence phrasing. It had too much of a twentieth century feel to it.

At the beginning of the story, young Micah Jenkins (son of Sam, and yes I only just caught that) is thinking about how the two families got stranded in the middle of the prairie. When he reveals that the reason they became separated from the main group is because of Lemuel “going all messianic;”  the phrase is way too “modern.” The time period when the story is set would not have featured such a turn of phrase.

Another part of the story has Micah recalling how he caught Lemuel’s oldest daughter Anna in the act of “fondling” her private parts; but, Micah uses a very modern term to describe the part of her nether region that she was touching. Both of these sentences had the effect of taking me out of the story. I am reasonably sure that the slang term Micah uses in the story was not in vogue just yet. So like the previous phrase, both of these instances (these were the most obvious) took away from Evans’ tale.

But, the overall story and the action almost made up for it. As I said it was a brilliant idea and one that certainly impressed me. Just for the plot alone, I’ve given the book a 3 out of 5 stars. In terms of originality, I personally think it rates much higher, but, again the dialogue did not ring true for me. So the modern phrasing of the characters knocked the final rating down.

I’ll definitely be reading some more from Mr Light. If the rest of his works are as original, I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed.

Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com
Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com