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20th Century Ghosts: Horror Fiction to Die For

abstract:It’s the variety that makes Joe Hill’s collection of 20th Century Ghosts, (William Morrow, 2007) stand out from the crowd of horror novelists. The stories range from the grotesque, to unnerving, even poignant and nostalgic.


February 14, 2008

Book Review

“It’s a nice memory of my father sitting with his hands cupped behind his head and the wintry blue sky over the both of us. It’s a nice memory with that old seagull floating over the outfield and not going anywhere, just hanging in place with its wings spread, never travelling any closer to wherever it was heading. It’s a nice memory to have in your head, everyone should have a memory just like it.”

This book was not what I expected. As a mystery and horror fan I expected to be led down some very familiar plot lines, but I was more than pleasantly surprised at the subtle intelligence behind each intriguing story in Joe Hill's short story collection, 20th Century Ghost Stories. Christopher Golden, who writes the introduction, captures it perfectly; "Most of those who practice the art of the unsettling far too often go for the jugular, forgetting that the best predators are stealthy." I shouldn’t have expected any less from the two-time winner of the Bram Stoker award whose debut novel Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel featured in the Top 10 New York Times Bestsellers List.

Even if horror and ghosts aren’t your thing this book is so varied and well written I’d suggest picking it up and you’ll find yourself lost in a world that really isn’t your own. —By Dorothy Raffo, BookBuffet Reviewer

Editor's Note
The Horror Writer's Associations says this,
"Webster's Collegiate Dictionary gives the primary definition of horror as 'a painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay.' It stands to reason then that "horror fiction" is fiction that elicits those emotions in the reader.

If we accept this definition, then horror can deal with the mundane or the supernatural, with the fantastic or the normal. It doesn't have to be full of ghosts, ghouls, and things to go bump in the night. Its only true requirement is that it elicit an emotional reaction that includes some aspect of fear or dread. Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is therefore just as much a horror novel as Stephen King's Salem's Lot. Tim LaHay's Left Behind series is just as full of horror as Dan Simmons' A Winter Haunting. By this definition, the best selling book of all time, the Bible, could easily be labeled horror, for where else can you find fallen angels, demonic possessions, and an apocalypse absolutely terrifying in its majesty all in one volume?"

In his 1982 anthology Prime Evil, author Douglas Winter stated, "Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion." He was correct and his words have become a rallying cry for the modern horror writer."

Joe Hill is the pen name of the author who is the child of two well known writers. Who is Joe Hill, really? It's a mystery. He told a Book Expo America (listen to the itunes MP3 download available from Harper Colllins) interviewer that he has been thinking of writing stories since he was twelve years old, so he had stored up a lot of ideas by the time he wrote Ghost Stories. He sold the collection to an British publishing company, and the book did fairly well, winning some awards. But it was not until he released his second novel, Heart-Shaped Box in America that his career took off when it made it onto the NYT Top 10 Bestsellers List in 2005. The copy of 20th Century Ghosts you see on this page is the North American release by HarperCollins, which includes an extra story not published in the British version. Joe Hill lives in New England.

If you're a fan of Poe or other horror writers, you will want to take a look at the Bram Stoker Award website.



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