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BOOK
A Manhattan Ghost Story

Author: T M Wright
Telos Publishing
www.telos.co.uk
RRP: 9.99, US $9.95, Cdn $14.95
ISBN-13: 978 1 8458 3048 9
ISBN-10: 1 84583 048
2
Available 21 September 2006


Abner Cray is your average freelance photographer until he is kissed by an overweight mystic on a bus. Arriving in New York to start a new commission, Abner finds himself dosing down at an old friends flat, a flat already inhabited by his friend's girlfriend. If that wasn't enough to complicate his life, Abner's friend, Art, is on the run for killing the very same woman he is sharing the flat with. Abner soon starts to experience some very strange things in his exploration of Manhattan...

A Manhattan Ghost Story is written by T. M. Wright who has amassed a serious body of work over the last thirty years. The book has not seen a printing in the UK since 1990, so here is a chance to catch up with a great read that's been out of print for too long. The book cover has a quote by Stephen King saying that he thinks that Wright is "a rare and blazing talent" and who am I to disagree with the big man. I have to admit that I had never heard of Wright before and given how good the book was this can only be to my own detriment.

Wright's style makes for a very easy read. That is not to say it is simplistic. A good writing style should flow, it should have an internal rhythm. Reading the book should be akin to listening to a well told story, where the author is able introduce you to separate characters which, through their actions and thoughts you come to care what happens to them, and develop a personal stake in their destiny. In this respect Wright pushes all the right buttons and, although I'm getting to hate the phrase, it would be fair to say that this is a real page-turner.

This is not your typical horror book full of zombies and disembowelment and whilst it easily cranks up the tension, as the story progresses, it never goes for any cheap literary shots just to get the audiences attention. Given the book cover and the back notes it's not giving anything away to say that a lot of people that Cray meets in Manhattan are, in fact, dead. The reader gets this idea way before Cray does and for a very good reason, Cray doesn't want to admit it to himself as he has fallen in love with Art's dead ex-girlfriend. What's interesting about their relationship is that it is fraught with all the same problem of any couple. Cray deludes himself about the truth. True she isn't perfect, but then who is? He makes the same sort of excuses and fudges that everyone does when their partner is less than perfect, but you still love them.

Although Wright, through Cray, continues to insist that the story is not a love story, in this he is lying to both himself and his audience. It is Cray's love for Phyllis that drives much of the narrative, which compels him further and further into the world of the dead, in search of his lost love. We take this journey with Cray to discover that death isn't what you might think, some parts of it are disturbing, some are comic and yet more are just touchingly sad.

Telos have continued to bring great quality novels at a reasonable price; one can only hope that they will also publish the second and third book set in this weird and wonderful world. If you have never read a T. M. Wright book then you're in for a real treat with A Manhattan Ghost Story, not only for the quality of the writing but also because this is an important book as it was the first to use the world of the dead as something with its own internal rules and characters. Prior to the first publication of the book ghost stories followed a predictable template, this book breaks the mould and without it we may not have had Sixth Sense, Dead like Me, Ghost Whisperer and Medium, all projects that have a debt to this book.

So, enjoy the book which started a whole new subgenre, I know I certainly did.

Charles Packer

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