The Haunted Heart and Other Tales by Jameson Currier
Haunted? Or blessed? Ghosts? Or guardian angels? Twelve new stories of gay men and the memories that haunt them.
A circuit boy stays at a haunted hotel. An actor recounts a grisly murder in the English countryside. A gay parent unravels a mysterious souvenir. A journalist chases a story through the streets of Amsterdam. An artist grapples with his muse. A musician is inspired by the spirit of a sailor.
Jameson Currier modernizes the traditional ghost story with gay lovers, loners, activists, and addicts, blending history and contemporary issues of the gay community with the unexpected of the supernatural.
"The Haunted Heart and Other Tales" is a collection of twelve short stories, some previously published and others never before published. Each of these stories revolves around gay men and relevant issues they face in their lives from abuse to love to death. In each story there is an element of supernatural, intrigue, and ghost stories told in entertaining fashion. Often the stories are creepy but they all manage to deliver an interesting story without blood and gore. These are ghost stories in the truest sense of the word where sometimes the ghost is an aspect of the story but not the main focus, whereas in others the ghost is a third member of the relationship. With the emphasis on creepy fiction rather than bloody gore, this well-written collection is a must have for ghost lovers.
The collection ranges in narrative style from first person to third person and includes a wide variety of concepts. The writing and prose in most is engaging and creates a vivid atmosphere, down to the last detail. The attention to detail is both a benefit and drawback to this collection though. In many of the stories, the lengthy set up and miscellaneous details cause the narration to drag slightly when an overabundance of names, details, and insignificant information overwhelms readers. Often names and small bits of information lack enough context to help the story and instead break the easy flow and pace. On the positive side, the level of detail creates a thorough setting that comes alive in the story. Hopefully future stories can balance this more effectively as these stories are riveting when not too focused on irrelevant information.
Of the twelve stories, there are several that stand out easily above the rest but the entire collection is solid. There is perhaps only one miss in “The Incident at the Highlands Inn” where the action is convoluted and confusing. It wasn’t until I read the explanation at the back of the anthology that the author’s concept and intent became clear. The idea is rather cool and interesting but didn’t translate very well into the story. However for one miss, there are several other stories that stand out for their excellent writing and clever narrative. From the creepy and relevant “Death in Amsterdam” about a journalist’s attempt to uncover the truth, to the freaky yet sad “The After Party” about a circuit boy’s wild night, each story injects a humanity and authenticity to the story that makes each tale seem real and possible rather than outrageous and ridiculous.
The true standouts include “The Haunted Heart” where the ghost of a sailor follows the life of a musician. The story is honest and engaging with a palpable emotion that shines through in the writing. The issues brought up are timeless just as the characters evoke a range of reactions in the best possible way. The stunning and hauntingly beautiful tale of “The Bloomsbury Nudes” may be the best of the collection. The intensity of the story never wavers while the set up and introduction creates an enthralling and riveting story. If there is a compliant, this story offers way too many irrelevant details which take away from the enjoyment of the narrative. The great characters and eerie telling create a fantastic creepy story with sympathetic men. This is a must read story.
Overall, I can easily recommend this solid group of stories. If you’ve read the first issue of Icarus, then “The Man in the Mirror” should be familiar. That is a great taste for this collection and a must read for ghost lovers. The stories will make you laugh, cry, and shiver but most of all you’ll wonder about those bumps in the night in an entirely new way.
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