Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ghost Music: Probably not a good introduction to Graham Masterton

Ghost MusicI know I’ve read some of Graham Masterton's short stories; I just can’t remember which, where, or when.  I do know that Ghost Music is the first of his novels I’ve read, and it probably wasn't a good place to start.

Ghost Music’s protagonist, Gideon Lake, is a successful composer of advertising jingles, who moves into a Greenwich Village apartment and begins an affair with the mysterious Kate, his downstairs neighbor.  She has a crass and menacing real estate agent husband, Victor, is consistently described as cold and bony, shatters glass with her screams when she climaxes, and continually dodges Gideon’s questions.  Nonetheless, he’s infatuated; Masterton tells us this, but he doesn’t show us – there’s an odd lack of real emotion in the relationship. 

It’s hardly a spoiler to say that Kate’s a ghost, since Masterton makes it abundantly clear to the reader; this makes the reader want to smack the dull and unquestioning Gideon for having no clue until Ghost Music’s finale.  As Kate sends him tickets and keys to the houses of her friends in Stockholm, London, and Venice, Gideon very slowly begins to realize that he has a “resonance” that allows him to see dead people.  But what are they trying to tell him? And how are Kate and Victor involved?

Much like Gideon and Kate’s relationship, the whole novel seems lacking in emotion, hastily tacked together for the sake of convenience.  There’s nothing of the lyrical infatuation of, say, Richard Adams’ The Girl in the Swing, and there’s nothing to raise the short hairs on the back of your neck, either.  The dialogue is mostly flat and unconvincing, and, like Ramsey Campbell in The Grin of the Dark, Masterton seems to have trouble making his American characters sound American – Britishisms sneak in (Gideon repeatedly refers to his “beezer” after getting punched in the nose).  Add a stereotypical gangster henchman who says “dollface” sixty years too late, Gideon’s lovingly clichéd description of Kate’s “dew-soaked lily petals”, and a hastily tacked-on bit about shady organ transplants before the disappointed ending, and the whole thing ends up seeming weak and a little silly. 

Despite this disappointment, it’s too early to give up on Graham Masterton; he's a prolific writer and perhaps Ghost Music just wasn't his best effort.  I need to check out some of his earlier novels like The Manitou and see if they have more to offer.

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