fine writing by lesbians and gay men since 1999
Scary, friendly, vengeful, sexy - many types of ghosts appear in this diverse volume of stories. There is a spirit far from home and one who doesn't want to leave home; there are ghosts who do favours or expect favours from humans, ghosts who tell their own story, and a spirit who wears a green lace negligėe.
In Queer Haunts you will find something for every mood: from chilling to charming, moving to amusing. Some of these tales link back to ancient legends and times gone by; others are firmly in the modern world where ghosts can jet in and carry a mobile phone.
The stories in this collection have all been written by gay and lesbian authors, and all speak in some way of gay experience. Queer Haunts reflects their diversity in its diverse collection, and the diversity of the readers to whom it will appeal - in fact, everyone who loves a good story or a good ghost. So wedge those rattling windows and creaking doors, curl up by the fire and enjoy!
"As is the case with all anthologies, the stories are of variable quality; the most effective being those that sensibly utilise the form by restricting locale and number of characters to a minimum (Jeffrey Doorn's In the Catacombs and Journey Round the Circle Line, for instance)."
Peter Burton, Gay Times, December 2003
ISBN: 978 1 904585 58 9
198 pages; £7.99
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This review by Gay Authors Workshop member Graham Robertson first appeared in Gazebo 6.
In Victorian times readers were far more credulous about the supernatural than are we in the 21st century. The writers in this anthology have countered our climate of scepticism in various ways.
Frank Storm's "Martin" makes a quite unlikely plot so entertaining that disbelief is willingly suspended, whilst Elsa Wallace, in "The Old Country" - where descriptions of relationships and background remind one of Katherine Mansfield - solves the problem by centring the story on the awakening sensibilities of a young girl, allowing the supernatural element to become poignant rather than scary. Again, in "Smoke", Martin Foreman, in an intense, elegiac, superbly descriptive piece, turns the supernatural ending into an elegant conceit.
The most genuinely frightening story in the collection is Jeffrey Doorn's "Journey Round the Circle Line", a compelling read in which a nightmare situation is resolved in a pleasingly appropriate ending. Without giving the game away, I'll tell you that "Circle of Six" by Michael Ewers acquires its melancholy charm from a similarly unusual perspective, while Kathryn Bell's contribution to the anthology consists of two stories, one of them about love beyond the grave; the other concerning a sinister paedophiliac phantom who is fortunately allergic to peppermints.
Michael Harth's practised pen gives verisimilitude to the supernatural by leading the reader into obscure or exotic areas of experience where anything can happen. Quite the opposite technique is employed by Gail Morris, with a familiar London background for her tale ("Clinging") of a lover who won't let go even when she's dead.
The title of "The Month Rule" by Alan Keslian refers to the central figure's acceptance of the narrow precept that one new sex partner per month is enough. Luckily, ghosts don't count, so he's able to enjoy the charms of a young scuba-diving instructor by day and his ghostly, look-alike ancestor by night. I liked the echoes between the day and night-time conversations. The author is plainly knowledgeable about the marine life of St Austell (not to mention Ruislip Lido).
In both the stories by Anne Stanesby, the same convincing detail, together with nice comic endings, provide a most entertaining read. Nobody buying this collection could complain that it isn't varied or diverting. Much of its interest, indeed, lies in the means by which each writer rises to the challenge of what, in our century, is a very difficult medium.
About the editor:
G Abel-Watters has a well-established association with ghosts, having investigated many sites of reputed hauntings, without ever finding totally convincing evidence of a supernatural manifestation. The hunt continues, with editing this anthology a welcome respite from the relentless pursuit, while a long-time ambition is to visit Dracula territory. Favourite colour, if anyone is interested, is pink, while the obligatory black cat is known as Aleister.
About the authors:
Kathryn Bell was born in Glasgow and now lives in east London. She has been writing short stories for about twenty-five years, and has been published in Sappho, Capital Gay, Gazebo, and The Green Queen. She would like to write a novel but lacks the stamina. She enjoys folk music, chocolate, and arguing.
Jeffrey Doorn's previous work has appeared in Gawp and Gaze, Queer Words, Gazebo, and Mandate. Jeff was born and educated in New Jersey, USA. For the past 25 years he has lived in South London with his partner Stephen. Jeff's other activities include acting and directing plays, besides organising art shows and cultural events. He is also co-editor of Paradise Press's collection of poems by gay men and women, Slivers of Silver.
Michael Ewers has been writing for pleasure for over ten years; firstly science-fiction fantasy novels, then a series of novellas, followed by short stories. More recently, he contributes a regular column, articles and reviews for Out & Proud, a quarterly publication produced by Flag Powys. While he has had a novel-size sci-fi adventure available electronically online for over a year, this is his first book publication.
Martin Foreman is the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. His most recent title is First and Fiftieth from Paradise Press, and fact, fiction and opinion appear weekly on his widely-read site: www.martinforeman.com. Born in Scotland, Martin has lived in several countries, returning every so often to spend a couple of years in London. He currently lives in Bangkok.
Michael Harth has read fantasy fiction all his life, but only recently taken to writing it. He has a volume coming out this year, The Physent and Other Stories, and if he keeps on in the same way another collection will follow. Two volumes of more general short stories, The Picnic and A Little Chat are also available. His affections are largely centred on four cats, and his spare time taken up by heterophobic pursuits, but he also enjoys attacking sacred cows, especially political correctness.
Alan Keslian is the author of a full-length novel Goodmans Hotel, published by Paradise Press, in which a City high-flier leaves his well-paid job to set up a gay bed-and-breakfast with his lover, a jack of all trades. The book was described by television's Ned Sherrin as 'a cautionary and amusing tale.' Keslian also writes the humorous Journal of Richard Jones for Gay Authors Workshop and his work appears in Slivers of Silver.. He was a Gay Liberation Front activist in the seventies, and now lives with his long-term partner in West London.
Miles Martlett spent most of his life trying to find a job that he could at least partly enjoy, while earning a modest stipend. His eventual solution would not have received parental approval, but it taught him a lot about human nature. This led to a brief period as a guru, but when his disciples proved, for some incomprehensible reason, unwilling to take his every utterance as gospel, he decided to make his wisdom available to all in the form of a novel, which he hopes to finish this year. No doubt, in the approved manner, a workbook will follow.
Gail Morris, when not writing short stories, is given up to domesticity: gardening, cooking, and sewing but NOT cleaning! She is interested in the paranormal, UFOs, birds and Elvis Presley, not necessarily in that order. She lives in London and hopes never to leave it.
Anne Stanesby lives in South London. She is a solicitor who now works part-time as an Advice and Information worker. She has written various published handbooks in the field of legal advice, while in 1989 her short story Non-custodial Sentence was included in an anthology of original crime stories published by the Women's Press, Reader, I murdered him. In recent years she has spent a lot of time pursuing her interest in horticulture, and the ideas for the two stories in this collection reflect that aspect of her life experiences.
Frank Storm was born in 1940 in Batavia, the then capital of the Dutch East Indies, now called Jakarta. Went into Japanese internment camps at age 1 and came out at age 5. While there noticed that he seemed different from other children. Lived and went to school in Indonesia, Holland and Australia and then studied acting in England and Germany. Has always wanted to write, even had one short story published in Germany many, many moons ago, but never seemed to have the time until now that he has retired to Spain.
Elsa Wallace, the author of A Short History of Lord Hyaena and the forthcoming Merle, lived in Africa for the first 30 years of her life, and has been writing for 40 years, mostly short stories. Her favourite authors are Ivy Compton Burnett and Dickens. Interests are human and animal welfare, veganism, ghosts, and tapestry. She works with a number of lesbian and gay groups.
Alice Windsor was born in 1969, travelling and working in the Middle East and Africa before settling down to a desk job in London, where she lives with her girlfriend and cat in a small house not unlike the one in the story, but without the ghost. She has been writing off and on as long as she can remember, but this is her first published story.