A guest review by Jenre
Can ghosts influence the living? Can they make a man fall in love? Help him see things in different lights? William Maltese, AM Riley and Lex Valentine weave four tales that pose these questions and answer the question, LOVE ME DEAD?
I knew I would probably be onto a winner when I picked up this anthology of two short stories by A.M. Riley and a story each by Lex Valentine and William Maltese, all based around the theme of ghostly goings on. Although I’ve only read books by A.M. Riley before, I’ve heard a lot of good things about William Maltese and was hoping that I would enjoy the story by Lex Valentine too. I wasn’t disappointed.
Ghost Hunters Long Beach by AM Riley
Length: 25 pages
This short tells the story of long time buddies and fellow ghost hunters James and Rick. James has had a long time crush on Rick for many years and, rather pathetically, follows him around from ghost site to ghost site just so that he can be with Rick. This time they are on a ship in dry dock, investigating the supposed ghost of a mariner who killed himself after being rejected by his lover.
There’s a lot packed into this short story: the back story of Rick and James, the story of the doomed mariner, a few minor characters and the development of the romance. However, this was all done with such fluidity that it didn’t seem too overcrowded. I enjoyed the playful banter between the two men and liked the first person narrator, James. I was so caught up in the drama between the two heroes that the twist at the end completely snuck up on me and took me by surprise. Overall a great short which is more focused on relationships and romance than spooky ghosts. Rating: 4.25 Stars.
Rousing Caine by Lex Valentine
Length: 72 Pages
This story begins, nervously, with the hero, Jason, waking up in the middle of the night at his beach house and realising that someone is in the en-suite bathroom. When that person slides into bed with him and attempts to initiate sex, Jason leaps out of bed thinking he was about to be attacked by a burglar. It isn’t a burglar, but a man who Jason knew only slightly, Caine Carruthers, a famous surfer who had been shot dead a few weeks previously.
I had mixed feelings about this story. On the plus side it is well written. The opening section had me feeling apprehensive, then incredulous and then interested – all the emotions that Jason goes through. I also liked Jason a great deal. He’s a rich man who has all that he wants, including nice possessions and a successful business, but is too trusting, leading to him being taken advantage of. In fact, when the story starts he is at his beach house recovering from his last lover who took off with a priceless painting and $4,000 from his safe. I found him to be a sympathetic character and the range of emotions that he experiences during his time with Caine seemed realistic. The parts that didn’t work for me stemmed a little from the story itself. Out of all the stories in the anthology this was perhaps the least plausible – at least for those who believe in ghosts – and the ending was perhaps just a little contrived. The character of Caine was less well developed than Jason. All we really find out about him is how he died, that he is a ghost, he has feelings for Jason and that’s about it. There were also far too many unexplained things about Caine’s ghostly state. Caine doesn’t know where he’s come from or how he can read Jason’s thoughts or even how he manages to hold his solid state and after a while I got a bit fed up that any questions I (or Jason) may have had about the paranormal aspect of the story was answered with a very convenient – I don’t know, it just is. Those of you who like sweet stories of ghosts and love will probably like this story a great deal, but it isn’t a story I can wholeheartedly recommend. Rating: 3.75 Stars.
The Day They Closed the Iguana by A.M. Riley
Length: 28 pages
Billy is a bit-part Hollywood actor who runs a theatre – the Iguana – in his spare time. Contractors wish to buy the theatre and its land to make way for a mall, but Billy loves his theatre. Whilst out for coffee he runs into Montana cowboy Frank, who’s visiting LA on business (and perhaps a little pleasure too) and they make a date for later, finding an unexpected attraction between these two very different men.
I really liked this story. It was simple and quite sweet and I found myself drawn into it, despite the fact that everything happens in a very short space of time – something which usually bugs me. What I liked most was the first person narrator Billy. On the outside he seems like many jaded LA actors and effects a worldly, cynical attitude. Inside he’s a man who has very little experience with men, having fallen in love and ‘saved himself’ for his best friend, Seth. The scenes where Frank and Billy have sex were such a wonderful mix of awkwardness and tenderness that I was enchanted. The story wasn’t without flaws: We never really get to know Frank very much, the end is sudden and tinged with sadness and there are still many questions left unanswered about how Frank and Billy will get on – it’s very much a HFN. The paranormal aspects were underplayed, taking a back seat to the romance, but I liked that as well. Grade: 4.5 stars.
Black Candle Reader by William Maltese
Length: 80 pages
This story is made up of small chapters all taken from the viewpoint of different characters: There is the first person narrator (the rest are all written in the third person), an unnamed black prostitute, who with his boyfriend Jeremy, works for an exclusive escort agency; a writer, Kenneth, who has the psychic ability to ‘read candles’ to find missing people; the son of a Nazi soldier; a street hustler; and a murderer. As the story progresses their stories become intertwined and many of their paths cross, showing how fate can bring even the most different people together.
I have to admit I was a bit disorientated by this story at first. As I said in the description above, each chapter takes on the view of different characters and it took me a while to realise what was happening. Once I’d got into the swing of the story, I found this method of telling a story quite fascinating and different. Although the story is short, it drew me in as I began to see how each chapter was linked. The character of the black prostitute (if he had a name, I couldn’t find it and I checked through the story a couple of times) is the most dominant character with a strong voice in the book, especially as he is the only part written in the first person. At first I was taken aback by the crude and matter of fact way that he came across, but after a while I got used to that and realised that his voice fit his character perfectly, especially when contrasted to the other main character, Kenneth. The paranormal part of the story which involved Kenneth’s ability as a candle reader was unusual enough to keep my interest and I experienced a whole range of emotions such as amusement (sometimes slightly horrified amusement), disgust, sadness and satisfaction at what was a very engrossing story. If I have any negative points at all, it was that in one chapter – where Kenneth and the prostitute are together – the viewpoint was a bit jumbled as we slid in and out of the character’s heads. This possibly could have been on purpose – a stylistic device, perhaps – but I found it a little confusing. This was only a slight niggle though in a very well written story. Grade: 4.75 stars
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this collection of ghost stories and would recommend it to those readers who like paranormals and are looking for something a bit different. I’m certainly going to be reading more stories by all three of these authors in the future.