By Stacey Graham
I am very picky with what keeps me up at night. I’ve been spoiled by Shirley Jackson and Stephen King and when I get time to read for pleasure, I usually reach into the horror section of my towering TBR pile (yes, I have sections) and hope that I’ll find a new-to-me author that has the chops to take on my favorites. Earlier this year, I pulled out Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. I still haven’t recovered.
Ghosts opens with an interview by a horror blogger (with an agenda of her own) of the youngest member of the Barretts, a family destroyed fifteen years earlier by Merry’s sister’s apparent madness and the lengths her family goes to help her, including exorcism to rid the teenager of demonic possession. With their father out of work, then eight-year-old Merry’s parents decide to help pay the mounting bills by allowing a production company into their lives to document (and profit from) the experience. To keep viewers watching, however, and her sister teetering between awareness of needing the money and her own psychosis, the stakes get higher every week of the broadcast. Was it a set-up to help their cash-strapped parents? Years later, Merry wasn’t sure—but the secrets her father kept were more damaging than anything Marjorie had produced. The ending to this horror/thriller stayed with me for so long that I tweeted Tremblay (he liked the tweet, knowing he’d gotten me hooked), shook my fist at the sky, and sobbed a little.
Tremblay’s influences are apparent throughout the story. There are shades of Shirley Jackson, Jay Anson, Stephen King, and William Peter Blatty, but they enhance the story instead of detract and the overall execution of the Barrett’s story is riveting. I’m looking forward to finding his latest book, a collection of short fiction called Growing Things the next time I reach into my pile.
Stacey Graham comes to us from the other side of the literary blanket, as an author of four books, multiple short stories, as a screenwriter, ghostwriter, and editor. She loves working with writers at all stages of their careers and will use her experience in authorship to help navigate the sometimes crazy waters of publishing for her clients. She currently lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband and five children. She considers the resulting nervous tick from her children to be charming.