Think ghosts just hang around old houses or crumbling graveyards?


Think again.


Obverse Books is proud to announce

a new collection of contemporary ghost stories that will unnerve and terrify.

The Obverse Book of Ghosts collects 14 tales of spectral terror, guaranteed

to leave you awake

at night.











If there’s one thing that the cold winter months are made for, it’s a ghost story. While I’m not an out-and-out horror fan, I do enjoy a good chill, and the short story is the perfect format for the genre. The Obverse Book of Ghosts is the first publication by Obverse Books not to feature their flagship heroine, Iris Wildthyme, although many of the authors will be familiar to those who have read any of their four Iris anthologies. This collection takes an approach different to many others by attempting to subvert cliché and set its tales in locations and styles that aren’t usually associated with the ghost story. The focus remains throughout more on the effects on the lives of the protagonists than it does on the nature of the horrors they face. While all thirteen stories aim for a touch of terror, many of them focus on the inherent humour of their situation, perverse humour though it may be.


A perfect example is Facebook of the Dead by Paul Magrs. At first seeming to be merely one man’s run-in with a kooky middle-aged woman, his theft of her laptop leads him into assuming her role in life, leaving him accursed for all time. Lighthearted in its style, as you’d expect from Magrs, it nonetheless has a spooky aura, although perhaps the most frightening aspect is the sheer pervasiveness displayed by Facebook - it seems the network stretches even beyond this mortal coil.


Guy Adams’ Down to the Very Last Drop, concerning an alcoholic doctor in a haunted care home, has a sinister humour to it, leading to a clever and creepy final revelation, while Miss Carkshine’s Donation is downright weird. I love that Philip Meeks sets the bulk of his story in a charity shop, having myself worked in that hidden eldritch realm. While there’s a genuine air of tragedy underpinning this story, no other entry in the collection manages to wring as much dark humour from death and destruction.


A charity shop also figures in Mark Michalowski’s Damaged Goods, one of my favourite stories in the collection. Creepy as hell, this tale of a haunted doll takes a hoary old cliché and makes it work by convincingly portraying it through the vale of reality. A similar approach is evident in Missed Call, by editor Cavan Scott. A series of chilling voicemails received from an ex-girlfriend send a man to the brink, threatening to destroy his relationship with his new partner; however, it’s the story behind the calls that really packs the punch. A touch predictable in its outcome, but still potently effective.



Another highlight is George Mann’s Cull, a story which subverts the concept of the guardian angel, turning it into a true horror story. Mixing supernatural, science fiction and sex, this is an excellently written story that once again shows how effective the last minute rug pull can be, twisting what has come before into a new light.


Platform Alteration takes another tried-and-tested template, that of the haunted train and the abandoned platform. This time it’s the verve of Scott Handcock’s prose that make the story so chilling and successful. Tom Fletcher’s Flats, the story of one couple’s endless series of dismally unsuitable homes, almost seems to be a purely mundane piece until the hideous truth is revealed towards the end. It’s an unusual tale in which the people are haunted, rather than the house.


Lost Heads by Nick Walters is certainly horrific, generating some particularly unpleasant imagery, but the unsympathetic protagonists drain the sparkle from the story and make it feel rather inconsequential. Sins of the Father by Nick Peers takes a fairly standard haunting and wisely focuses on its effects on the victim; however, the ending is entirely predictable, which serves to take the edge off.


Just a Fox, by the editors long-time writing partner, Mark Wright, explores memory and guilt, weaving an affecting tale of one man returning to his childhood home and discovering a long-hidden secret, whereas erstwhile New Adventures editor Rebecca Levene provides a brutal tale of justice in the prison-set tale which goes by the innocuous name The Windmill. Obverse supremo Stuart Douglas makes his first attempt at a ghost story with Have To, another affecting tale with a nasty sting, which puts a different shade on family tragedy.


Like any such anthology, some stories are more successful than others, but there is enough variety in style, approach and content here to keep a wide range of readers entertained. Fans of traditional ghost stories will find new spins on favourite concepts, while those new to the genre can ease themselves in gently through the thin veil of the mundane world. Readers looking for horror and those looking for humour can find tales that will appeal. The Obverse Book of Ghosts is a definite success, then, and one that shows that Obverse Books should consider producing more thematically-linked collections to compliment their main ranges.


Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2011


Daniel Tessier has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

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