By Christopher Ransom
Published by Sphere, 2010.
Christopher Ransom is that rarest of species, a horror writer who has actually achieved a degree of commercial success. His first novel The Birthing House made the Times bestseller lists and was widely advertised and publicised. This is his second novel and is certainly prominent on bookshelves so just what has Ransom got that other well respected horror writers haven’t.
James Hasting’s makes his living as a body double for the world famous white rap star, Ghost (clearly based on Eminem). When his wife Stacey dies as a result of a hit and run his world is turned upside down. Then a new neighbour, Annette moves in next door and his life becomes even more complex.
So, take a large dose of modern urban culture, throw in the best bits of Fatal Attraction, some scenes of torture which wouldn’t be out of place in one of the populist torture porn films, a small amount of supernatural intrigue and you have The Haunting of James Hastings. Unashamedly populist then which probably goes some way to explain it’s popularity (you don’t say Sherlock).
And given these influences there is perhaps no use complaining that the plot maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense, that the characters are just a bit stereotypical, that the whole thing has a rather annoying desire to show it’s street cred at every opportunity. It’s certainly no classic ghost story but it is an enjoyable, easy read at least for the first half where the supernatural threat is strongest. The second half is much weaker as the plot gets stretched into all kinds of weird shapes. It appears that if you want to sell loads of horror books these days then you need to watch some of the popular slasher films and write something similar. Hopefully this will lead folk into the horror shelves section in the dusty corner of the bookshop where they might find something with a deeper more emotionally engaging undertone but at least it is reminding folk that there is a horror section, that’s got to be a good thing.
Rating 3 out of 5