Remarkably slim paperback pickings this October which some of you may be relieved to hear. Just two to look out for one of which I’ve already reviewed. Lorna Gibb’s A Ghost’s Story is somewhat different from the more traditional scare-yourself-rigid variety, not so much a ghost story as the ‘autobiography’ of one of the most famous manifestations of the spirit world: Katie King who first made her appearance at the height of the nineteenth-century spiritualism craze. Couching her story within the framework of academic research, Gibb takes us from London to New York, Russia to the slums of Naples, and back again as she follows Katie from séance to séance, revealing the elaborate theatrical shenanigans employed by mediums and their sponsors. In a clever twist Katie’s is the voice of scepticism, debunking much of what she sees at séances and wary of those who seem to have the possibility of psychic ability. The novel’s fragmentary structure takes a little getting used to but it’s fascinating study of the strange world of belief and longing to believe, and it’s very funny at times.
Steve Stern’s The Pinch sounds very different. It’s set in the 1960s in the eponymous Memphis neighbourhood, once a thriving Jewish community. Lenny Sklarew, the last remaining tenant, finds that he’s a character in a novel about the area written by a woman who knew it in its heyday. Stern interweaves the story of the author and Larry’s uncle in what the publishers call ‘a brilliant, unforgettable novel’ – although they would say that, wouldn’t they. I’ve not come across Stern before. He seems to be much acclaimed in the States although the New York Times begs to differ. I’m not at all sure about The Pinch after reading that but the premise does makes it sound worth investigating.
That’s it for October. If you’d like to catch up with the much more extensive hardback preview here it is.