What’s 20th Century Ghost all about?:
Imogene is young, beautiful, kisses like a movie star, and know everything about every film ever made. She’s also dead, the legendary ghost of the Rosebud Theatre.
What did I think?:
I confess to finding myself a bit under-whelmed by Joe Hill’s first story in this collection, Best New Horror which was good, don’t get me wrong, but having rated the author’s debut novel, Heart-Shaped Box and his second, Horns five stars when I read them recently, I guess my expectations were stupidly high. Luckily, I got on much better with the title story of this collection, 20th Century Ghost and although it might not have reached the dizzying heights of five star-ness (is that EVEN a phrase?!), it restored my faith in Hill as a short story writer.
The author of 20th Century Ghosts, Joe Hill. There were many images I could have chosen but I was strangely drawn to this one with the tree! 😛
So, this story as you may have already guessed from the synopsis is about a ghost called Imogene Gilchrist who appears to a very select number of theatre frequenters, desperate to talk to them about the movie she is viewing. The tale focuses on Alec Sheldon, who now owns the Rosebud Theatre but when he was a younger man, visited there with his brother, Ray on a regular basis. Ray has sadly been killed in the war and Alec is still struggling with his loss but one day, visits the theatre on his own where he has the frightening experience of meeting Imogene and talking to her for himself. Back in the present day, Alec has become quite obsessed with Imogene and the sad story behind her death, which happened as she was actually watching a film, The Wizard Of Oz. He keeps notes of all his customers who have also seen Imogene who feel compelled to talk to him about the experience. Meanwhile, the theatre is losing money and all the customers who have seen the ghost have had the same strange dream, of boarded windows and a woman crying. Alec must call on all his resources to try and save the Rosebud, talk to Imogene again and make peace with his own tragic past.
This image represents how I imagined the Rosebud Theatre to look.
20th Century Ghost had just enough intrigue, creepiness and indeed, heart-break to keep me turning the pages and I adored the bitter-sweet, horribly sad ending. Imogene was a wonderful character as a ghost and the manner of her death was so sad that it just made me more curious about what her back-story was. Unfortunately, we don’t really find out a great deal but in compensation, we get the fantastic Alec, who got my emotions rocking and reeling due to the loss of his brother. Having not had any previous experience with Joe Hill’s short stories before this collection, I did wonder if he was only going to be good at epic novels but I’m delighted to say that he can write a short, snappy, engrossing tale with the best of them and I’m confident that I’m going to enjoy the rest of this collection.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: The Coincidence Of The Arts by Martin Amis from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night.