Off the Shelf
By Marcus Pan
I always enjoy getting books in the mail
for review and this was no exception. Sent to me by High Country Publishers,
Essence is a ghost story written by Glenn Woods, but takes the form more of a
gothic drama rather than a horror novel. Well told and brilliantly executed,
Glenn Woods writes from the perspective of a writer haunted by a ghostly little
girl eager to tell the story of the century and a half shes spent trapped
haunting the house where she tragically died.
First a bit about High Country Publishers a small
publishing crew based in North Carolina, HCP put out fiction that is described
as from the North Carolina High Country. They publish only fiction,
it is extremely varied from mysteries to modern thrillers, romance to
historical plots. Their books are done quite well, very well made, and though
small High Country still retains a strong sense of professionalism while
maintaining an indie/DIY look and feel
so much so I have more than once,
while reading Essence, considered shopping them Decade of Dark though I
havent considering they dont seem to do dark horror, unfortunately.
Printed in a trade paperback size on high quality paper between soft but sturdy
stock paper covers, High Country Publishers might be somewhere that other folks
might want to peek at if theyre shopping their own manuscripts.
I admit I have taken a bit too long to write this review,
since Ive been dead-on busy at the dayjob. Not only have I finished
Essence, enjoying it immensely as I went, I also finished reading an old
pulp-fantasy by good ol Piers(1) that Ill be writing up following
this. But when I received in the post yesterday another book from High Country
Publishers(2) I thought to myself, how cool but damn I better write up
the last one they sent me or theyre going to spank me with a wet
Little Luzette, a young girl who meets her tragic end in a
stray bullet from a Civil War soldier in Savannah, bloodily crawls her way to
hide into the basement of an open home in her town without realizing shes
actually been shot. There in the cold damp of the cellar she passes on. The
book tells the story of her time until our current year during which she spent
stuck in this strange familys home. She must learn what it is to be a
overcome the fear, loneliness and try and find ways to tell people
through the years that shes there in hopes her body would be discovered,
properly buried and release her from the grips of her Purgatory.
When I first began, originally I was struggling with the
excellent writing, high-brow vocabularly and superb dictation of what was
supposed to have been a little girl. Being a bit of a character
developer myself in my own stories, my first impression wasnt well worn.
Little girls dont speak like Luzette. But then it hit me
like a ton of bricks along with a big stupid sign on top
that Woods ghost was as perfect as could be. After all, though a child
when she died, she has spent the next 150+ years by herself, watching the rest
of the people that moved in and out of her haunted house, learning, struggling
and thinking all along about her situation
and trying to contact people to
help herself out of it. Of course shes going to speak intelligently and
unlike any child and many adults Ive known shes lived and
learned for much longer!
This revelation hit me around the time I met some of the
other characters in Glenns books, whos diction, drawl and slang
were so ultimately done that you can hear them speak. The voodoo woman with her
bag of bones sounds like any Civil War era black voodoo woman should.
Housekeeper Miss Clara and the other folks of Savannahs yonder days are
so well created they make the folks of Gone With the Wind look like
anachronistic cardboard cut outs. Great work Mr. Woods.
Through Essence youll be whisked through
different times and cultural climates. From the early days as the Civil War
breaks out and the slavery culture of Savannah to the rise and fall of a jazz
the technological discoveries of phones, radios, televisions
all new and appearing to the wondering filament eyes of a little girl who lived
in the days of sailboats and cotton gins. Youll feel Luzettes
frustrations as she attempts different methods, many trying to utilize the new
technologies brought into her home as she learns about them, of trying to reach
the people living there in hopes of having her corpse discovered only to
and learn that its not always a proper
burial that releases a ghost from her mire.
Its really a touching story ghost story or not.
well researched by the author as he took us through a
century and a half of our own American history better than any textbook could
have. Little Luzette can probably teach most of us more than all the wise men
still in physical form as terms like out of the mouths of babes
takes on new meanings when the babes have lived five times as long as I have. I
used to think being a haunt might be fun
and surely some aspects might be.
But Im not willing to commit to that much after Ive frustrated
along with a little girl as she struggled away the hours, hiding from the
sunlight, avoiding the shadows and trying to speak in a southern American home
since the day that Georgia seceded from the Union
and a childs
innocent soul seceded from her body.
(1) Piers Anthony, of course, who else?
Donald A. Berman, M.D., with Mount Doomsday.
Essence: This Child Ghost Wants to Tell You
Her Story by Glenn Woods
Copyright © 2004 by Glenn Woods
Published by High Country Publishers, Ltd.
First Printing April, 2005
Post: 197 New Market Center, #135, Boone, NC, 28607, USA
Phone: (828) 964-0590
Fax: (828) 262-1973
Click to Buy!