He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. —Psalm 113:9

June 28, 2010

Review: Ghost Story

Ghost StoryI've always felt like a bad horror fan because I'd never read this modern horror classic. So when I found Ghost Story on the "Free Books" shelves at my accountant's (who also owns Oklahoma's biggest used book store) on the day we got our taxes done, I new I'd run out of excuses. Even so, after bringing it home it sat on my bookshelf collecting dust while I read other things. Until early last week, when I finally picked it up and started reading. And I'm glad I did.

After the sudden death of one of their members, the monthly meetings of The Chowder Society took a morbid turn as each member took turns answering the question, "What's the worst thing that ever happened to me?" At first, the four elderly survivors blame their spooky stories for their nightmares, but when the line between dreams and real life seem to be getting blurred, they call in the nephew of their deceased member, horror novelist Don Wanderley, whose brother also died under mysterious circumstances, hoping he can help them get to the bottom of what's happening. And that's about all I can say about the plot without getting into spoilers.

My first impression of this book is that it's extremely well-written, but not very scary to desensitized contemporary readers. But then about half-way through, the story started to work its way into my nightmares, and I found I was as reluctant to read it before bedtime as I was to put it down. Part of the plot is a little predictable, but that's more the fault of the fact that it was written in 1979 and that particular formula has been done to death since then. Even so, it was an engaging and sufficiently creepy read, and did I mention extremely well-written? Because today's would-be authors would do well to take notes on Peter Straub's use of language and imagery, and his masterful way with voice and dialogue. I know I did.

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