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by Joe Hill
William Morrow, October 2007
336 pages
ISBN: 0061147974

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Readers are now starting to pay attention to Joe Hill after the successful release of his horror novel HEART-SHAPED BOX. He has been a writer for a few years and has written numerous short stories that have garnered him some awards. His stories are being re-released in this latest printing of 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS.

Yes, inside this book there are a couple of ghost stories as well as some scary ones. However he does not write to cause revulsion among readers. He is not looking for shock value or trying to titillate readers. Hill is there to tell a story and he does a pretty good job of it thanks to some creative story lines.

There is one involving a kid who turns into an insect (a tribute to Kafka's METAMORPHOSIS) and just wants to sing. Then before you know it there is a story called Pop Art about a boy named Art who happens to be inflatable and is ridiculed for being, ahem, different.

Then there are some stories involving father-and-son relationships which, at times, could be a little bit twisted, and some stories that at first appear to be innocent but turn out to be something different. A perfect example is The Widow's Breakfast.

There are two stories that stand out for me and they are the first two in the book, Best New Horror and 20th Century Ghosts. The first one is rather scary, but it's a real eye opener. The main character is an editor of anthologies of horror short stories as written by amateurs. He's seen it all, and he knows the formulae wannabe authors follow in trying to tell a story but fail miserably. He knows what is coming next but he's caught off guard in the story.

The other story involves a ghost that lives inside a movie theatre and only reveals herself to select viewers. It is a good story and it is not formulaic. This is what separates Hill from most writers trying to sell a horror story. One has to be able to tell a story, not necessarily gross readers out. It should be the strength of the plot, not a gimmick, that carries the story. Hill does a superb job with most of his stories. It will not be the last we hear from him and other writers might learn a thing or two from him.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, September 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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