cover image THE TWO SAMS: Ghost Stories

THE TWO SAMS: Ghost Stories

Glen Hirshberg, . . Carroll & Graf, $23 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-7867-1255-7

"We go where our ghosts lead us." So says the narrator of a story in Hirshberg's luminous new collection of weird tales in which ghosts assume the shape of unaddressed emotional needs and denied fears, and the avenues characters follow them down end in haunting self-discovery. In "Mr. Dark's Carnival," a history professor's visit to a fabled Halloween funhouse turns eerie when the pranks get personal and push him to an unsettling revelation. The book's best selection, "Dancing Men," is an enigmatic but emotionally resonant tale wherein the horrors of the Holocaust achieve a tangible presence that haunts successive generations descended from a concentration camp survivor. Hirshberg (The Snowman's Children) shows uncommon talent for insinuating the supernatural into scenarios grounded in credible reality and for maintaining ambiguity until the moment of prime emotional impact. This is nowhere more evident than in the poignant title story, in which a man awakens from sleep to fulfill paternal obligations to an apparently needy child. Struck from the mold of classic ghost fiction and filled with emotionally charged symbols and set pieces, these exceptional and accomplished stories will put readers in mind of the electrifying short fiction of Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell and other writers who represent the best of modern literary weird fiction. (Oct. 31)

Forecast:A laudatory introduction by Ramsey Campbell and a blurb by Stephen Jones ("the next Big Thing in horror fiction") will help alert readers to this rising star whose work has already received a number of nominations for World Fantasy and International Horror Guild awards. Unlike the inapt image on the jacket, the subtitle will let readers know this is a collection of supernatural fiction.