Off-Topic Book Review: A City of Ghosts, by Betsy Phillips
A City of Ghosts is a self-published book of completely original ghost stories set in Nashville, TN. It has been released just in time for Halloween by author Betsy Phillips, who explored the options for publishing her stories and made the bold decision to go forth on her own.
I know, self-published, right? I think many of us have preconceived notions about what self-publishing is and who does it and the quality of self-published material. Betsy has proven us all wrong.
I know I am enjoying a book when I catch myself forcing others to listen to me read snippets of it aloud. I have already repeatedly subjected the spouse to readings of snippets, and predict that I will be reading bits of A City of Ghosts to innocent bystanders until Halloween and beyond. The organization of the book into daily stories for both April and October make it perfect for the month-long read-aloud, so you’ll want to order it now to read throughout the coming month.
There are many memorable passages that deserve read-aloud highlighting. From “The Devil’s Cursed old,” in a passage about an X found marking the spot on an old map:
“A faint X, but the kind of X that makes historians feel for a second like they’re going to be able to call their friends in the archaeology department and tell them to suck it.”
From the same story:
It’s well-known that the Devil has a summer home here in Nashville. So it didn’t take too many Sundays before preachers were blaming him for the flood. The truth is that he had nothing to do with it. The Devil rarely does things, at least not anymore. lately he’s just been making suggestions or turning off alarm clocks, or whispering tiny doubts in people’s ears.
It’s not very hard, if you’re the Devil, to do big acts of evil. But how small a wrong can he do and still have it spiral out of control? That’s the question he’s been lately trying to answer.
How could not love that? Don’t you just want to sit outside by a campfire when it’s still too warm out and read it to other people? The author may be officially Midwestern by birth, but I think she has clearly learned to write haunted Southern stories, ones that use the place – and the attitudes – to enhance the tales without relying on stereotypes and easy devices. Another story about a neighborly ghost frying bacon in the pan is another perfect example, but you’re going to have to buy the book to find out why.
I can’t recommend it enough to people who like spooky, funny, and disturbing short stories, or, as the back cover puts it “unsettling campfire stories for grown-ups.” There are some events coming up with the author in October. If you’re using Goodreads to track your reading, here’s the page for the book (but you’ve missed the giveaway – buy it in paperback or Kindle format here).
And, librarian readers, “The Brentwood Library” starts on page 33.
[A note about the author: Betsy blogs at Tiny Cat Pants and for local alt-weekly the Nashville Scene at Pith in the Wind. She also has publishing experiencing at university presses. I’m happy to be personally acquainted with her, but would have loved this book either way.]