The ghost story has developed enough over the years that there are certain plots, characters, settings, and themes that pop up over and over again to the point at which they are considered cliché. Sometimes, use of these can make for tired reading: this is like “XX” by Poe/Hawthorne/Whoever; this has been done to death; I suspect I know how this ends, so I’m not going to bother to finish.
Yet, there is a place in the ghost story canon for some of these—because they work. In the hands of the right person—who is usually doing this intentionally—a few of these slightly skewed and combined can still make for a read that ends in surprise and is one hell of a joyride on the way.
What’s difficult about placing a story of this ilk is the level of skill required to spot one. Some haven’t studied the genre enough to understand the technique; case in point: my short story “Denigrating David,” was rejected by a few people, and the one that impressed me the least was from someone who wrote, “Our reader says there are things wrong with this that can’t be fixed.” The one that impressed me the most was from an editor who totally understood and appreciated what I was doing, but didn’t care for it and took the time to discuss what she thought might have been done differently. Three other editors, however, were quite pleased and all the acceptances, strangely, came in on the same day—I chose the one that came in first. It now appears in State of Imagination’s Issue 3.
“Ghostwriter,” by Edward Lodi, is a piece like “Denigrating.” In his introduction to the story, he writes that he found the manuscript in a drawer and realized he’d written it 25 years before—but didn’t remember why he’d shoved it aside for that long. I could guess—and I’m glad he chose to get it in print.
I can’t tell you what he used or how he skewed them because I will ruin it for those of you that are curious enough to check it out. But I can tell you that if you love the classic horror and ghost story hallmarks you’d find in Poe or even Lovecraft, but you’re looking for something that’s fresh and still going to surprise you, then “Ghostwriter” is a fun, uncomplicated, chilling little chocolate in which you just have to indulge.
“Ghostwriter” can be found in Till Human Voices Wake Us…The Lost Ghost Stories of Edward Lodi, which was published in 2009 in a limited run of 400 copies. It’s a beautiful volume, and should be on every ghost story lover’s shelf. The original price was $27.50, and there are a couple near that in stock through Amazon Marketplace here: http://amzn.com/1934400157
Lodi’s tale of overgrown gardens, old maids and creepy statuary is a ghost story classic: it addresses the common theme of sexual frustration in the most elegant and subtle of ways. Take the sibilance, for example. When read aloud, there’s a consistent hiss we associate with serpents—a keen allusion to Eve’s tempting in the Garden. Makes sense: this Massachusetts manor’s garden is a twisted Eden. A stroke of genius. Don’t miss this one.
“The Face on the Garden Wall” can be found in Till Human Voices Wake Us…The Lost Ghost Stories of Edward Lodi, which was published in 2009 in a limited run of 400 copies. It’s a beautiful volume, and should be on every ghost story lover’s shelf. The original price was $27.50, and there are a couple near that in stock through Amazon Marketplace here: http://amzn.com/1934400157