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Beth Alston: Long winter nights perfect for ghost stories

AMERICUS — What better way to while away the long nights of winter than reading ghost stories? Of course they’re good in warm weather, too, but sometimes the climate helps to put the reader into the story, like the following one, for instance.

• “The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story” — Susan Hill — David R. Godine — 1983

I borrowed this book from my brother Ron, who is also an avid reader. He had mentioned it several times before, and I was always immersed in something else, but this time he had the thin tome in his hand.

It is an excellent read. Set in the English moors, it is perfectly dreadful with the isolated roadway to an abandoned mansion. It is so remote that the causeway is actually under water with the tides and one can get caught there all alone, cut off from humanity.

This is what welcomes the young solicitor from London who comes to settle the estate of the mansion’s owner who is recently deceased.

If he had known what he was taking on, it’s doubtful he would have ventured there. It takes a while but he is able to unravel the mystery of the terrifying sounds that emanate from the fog and the secrets the ancient house holds.

The book has been made into a movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe, which I’ve seen. Of course it’s not as good as the book, but I’ve heard there’s even a second film. I can’t imagine what could be in the second one since the conundrum was solved in the first. Go figure. Hollywood.

I highly recommend the book. It will hold your attention and the reader will delight in the descriptions of daily life in a coastal village, even the creepy parts.

• “20th Century Ghosts” — Joe Hill — 2005 — Harper

Having never heard of this author, I took a chance anyway. I love ghost stories. Not certain, but I think this book came from amazon.com. It’s just too easy to look, punch a few keys and have your books in two days.

Hill also wrote the NYTBN (New York Times Bestselling Novel) “Heart-Shaped Box,” which I have yet to read.

He is a past recipient of the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy awards.

I liked this book because I enjoy short stories and the subject matter. Hill’s ghost stories leave the reader slightly unsettled. He gets to the core of his characters and allows us to see everything: the warped and the “normal,” which helps us to understand the motives of some of the protagonists of these stories, all of which make for an excellent volume of modern horror.

Highly recommended reading.

• “Jaspar’s War” — Cym Lowell — Rosemary Beach Press — 2014

I had never heard of this writer until I received an e-mail about the novel and it seemed like a good idea. It was.

Filled with action and intrigue, of the global sort, it holds the reader in thrall up until the very last page.

The basic plot centers on Jaspar Moran, wife of the Secretary of the Treasury, who lives a fairy tale dream life: two beautiful and healthy children and a luxurious lifestyle and a successful marriage to the man she loves.

All that ends when her children disappear and she is told that her husband’s plane has gone down. Jaspar has to tap into her deepest resources in her quest to find her children. She doesn’t know who to trust and is hunted by several factions.

This is a nerve-racking good read! Highly recommended!

• “The Hiltons: The True Story of An American Dynasty” — J. Randy Taraborrelli — Grand Central Publishing — 2014

I’m a sucker for big, fat juicy books and amazon.com led me straight to this epic history.

Having been fascinated by the Hiltons for most of my life, I finally indulged myself and sat down to learn more about them. The book is not only filled with facts but is quite readable. This family has enough skeletons to fill a vault and Taraborrelli brings them all out into the light.

Reading more like a novel than true-life, it goes to show the veracity of an old axiom: Money doesn’t buy happiness.

A great book!

Side note: Taraborrelli has also penned other non-fiction on the Kennedy family, the Kennedy women, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson, all of which beckon to me now. Ahhh, so many books, so little time.

Beth Alston is executive editor of the Americus Times-Recorder. Contact her at 229-924-2751, ext. 1259, or beth.alston@gaflnews.com