Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!!!

In honor of the occasion - and since I don't have a day-job I can talk about; I write full time, in addition to handling the kids, the dog, and the husband's real estate business - I figured I'd chat a little about my favorite spooky books instead.

To be honest, I've never been big on paranormal phenomena. Vampires are creepy, werewolves are hairy, and demons are scary, not to mention scaly, and as a mystery writer, I tend to think that evil is wrong, anyway.

I do, however, have a fondness for ghosts. Not because I've ever seen one personally. I haven't. I keep hoping that maybe one of these days I will - we vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, every year, and there's a restaurant there with a haunted ladies room (swear to God!) which I make it a point to visit - but so far, no dice.

But I do love a good ghost story. I even wrote one myself once. It was the second DIY book, called Spackled and Spooked. It concerned a supposedly haunted mid-century ranch where murder had been committed seventeen years previously, and a skeleton buried in the crawlspace, among other cool things.

One of my favorite ghost stories was released 43 years ago, back when I was but a gleam in my mother’s eye, practically speaking. Barbara Mertz, writing as Barbara Michaels, wrote Ammie, Come Home in 1968, and it has one of the most chilling examples of ghostly possession ever penned. Like all of Mertz/Michaels/Elizabeth Peters’s books, it’s also marvelously written, quite funny at times, and with a very satisfying love story or two.

Since we’re on the subject of Mertz/Michaels/Peters, she also wrote Devil May Care, and House of Many Shadows, and Witch, and The Crying Child, and a slew of others, all of which handle ghosts and spirits in various incarnations, and all of which are stellar. 

More recently—like last year—Jennifer Crusie’s latest, Maybe This Time, arrived in stores. She’s an autobuy for me, and you can imagine my excitement when I not only found the expected humor and fantabulous love story, but also ghosts and—yes—even an instance or two of possession.

Not that I have a particular thing for possession, you understand, but ghostly possession can be a lot of fun. To read about, I mean; like the ghost-sightings, I’m not so sure I’d like it if it happened to me.

And then there’s Lillian Stewart Carl, whose every protagonist generally deals with ‘ghost allergies.’ You can’t really go wrong with a Lillian Stewart Carl—she’s been compared to both Barbara Michaels and the brilliant Mary Stewart—but if I had to mention one book in particular, it would have to be Shadows in Scarlet, a paranormal romantic suspense romp in which Amanda, a tour guide at a historic home in Virginia, falls in love with the ghost of James Grant and ends up taking his spirit to his home castle in Scotland. I won’t go into details of the story, but it’s great, and even includes—for those of you who get off on that kind of thing—a ghost/human sex scene. There may be more of those out there, but this was the first I’d read, and quite well done, I might add. (And in case you wonder about the feasibility, as does a certain character in the book, to quote Amanda, who ought to know, “he had plenty of substance.”)

I could keep going, but I won’t. Instead, why don’t you leave a comment to tell me about your favorite ghost book, and help me add to the TBR pile.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Jennie Bentley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, as well as the Cutthroat Business mysteries, written as Jenna Bennett. You can find out more about both of them at


Liz V. said...

Loved Ammie Come Home, while the rest of Michaels' books were fine but not as gripping.

Not into creepy, hairy, or scary so generally don't read books with paranormal theme and definitely avoid horror books and films.

I've not read R. A. Dick's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but it keeps turning up this Halloween, reminding me to try it.

Have enjoyed Sketch Me If You Can and To Sketch A Thief by Sharon Paper.

Dru said...

The "Sarah Booth Delaney" series by Carolyn Haines has Jitty who talks to Sarah Booth.

Susan Cushman said...

Great post! I'm not into vampires and werewolves, but like you, I am into ghosts. Although I'm writing literary fiction right not, and not mystery, I've got an idea percolating for a book based on the ghosts of two little twin girls .... ooops, can't reveal more right now! Happy Halloween and thanks for posting!

Grace Greene said...

Your mention of Barbara Michael's and Ammie Come Home, really took me back. Oh, how I remember it! I had to run to my bookcase and find two more of hers that I love - Houses of Stone and Be Buried In The Rain.

I do enjoy some horror novels, but IMHO, while some come close, none will ever beat these gothic and romantic suspense jewels.

mag said...

My favorite ghost story is the aptly named Ghost Story by Peter Straub. It's a really great read--creepy and well-written. The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes, both by Ray Bradbury, may not qualify as ghost stories, but are perfect for the season. And The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman offers a different take on the typical ghost story. I love them all. :)

Jenna said...

Thanks for visiting, y'all! I appreciate the comments and suggestions, and I'll definitely check them out. Hope your Halloween was safe and fun! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Oh I love this post and this topic! I adored Barbara Michaels and still mourn the fact that she has not written any new books under that pen name (I do not love her newer books set in Egypt nearly as much.) My favorites were Ammie Come Home & Here I Stay.

Here's my additional reading suggestions in no particular order:
#1 - The Graveyard Book. Yes, it is considered middle grade, but read it. Seriously!!
#2 - My one new ghostly literary find this year was The House on Tradd Street by Karen White. Could NOT put it down.
#3 - The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson
#4 - A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
#5 - The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
#6 - A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
#7 - Project 17 by Laurie Stolarz
OK - I'll stop there. Happy reading!

Jenna said...

Oooh, good stuff. Thanks, Trisha!

jewellery said...

had a great halloween..thanks to you i made a halloween costume from your ideas.and this is a great article

Write a book said...

Halloween is having a great spiritual reason behind its existence and that makes it more special... anyway great post!