Wednesday, July 29, 2009

“Ghostwriter”, (Hachette Book Group), by Travis Thrasher

What exactly should “horror” be? Some readers view it as entertainment, pure and simple. For them, the horror genre is a safe way to experience thrills and chills. Others view it as a vehicle for serious social commentary, an opportunity to address weighty issues through speculative storytelling.

Still others think it's the best way to depict the battle between good and evil, reminding us that too often evil wins, and that “good” can be far more frightening than we ever imagined. Regardless, most everyone can agree that storytelling with a purpose is the best possible kind, and that's what Travis Thrasher offers in “Ghostwriter.” This isn't a chilling story for the sake of thrills; Thrasher writes with a deeper purpose.

Dennis Shore lives every aspiring writer's dream: the life of a bestselling author with a rabid fan base and several movie adaptations in his pocket. His novels have sold millions, he's made a living from channeling his darker fears into compelling stories, and his ever fervent imagination is always ready to churn out another bestseller.

Until his wife is diagnosed with cancer and dies shortly after. Until the words dry up and go away. Suddenly, everything that made Dennis feel special – his wife – and made him noteworthy – his creativity – are gone. And yet, he still faces demands from his agent, publisher, and fans. Most importantly, there are his own demands: that he be a strong father for his daughter, and most importantly: that he BE Dennis Shore. Author. Wordsmith. Master storyteller. None of which are true anymore.

In a moment of desperation he comes across a completed manuscript sent to him by a fan asking for critique. It's good. Very good. So good, Dennis does the unthinkable – claims it as his own. Now, just as “his” newest novel hits the stands to great acclaim, the true author of the manuscript turns up. He's angry. Twisted. Driven by cruel desires and a need for revenge. Worse yet, Cillian Reed will take Dennis places far darker than any the author has ever imagined; places he may never return from.

Thrasher takes what could easily have been a cautionary tale and crafts a thriller that asks some insightful questions about the nature of storytelling, and the value of stories shaped from true, personal fears. Along the way, he uses Dennis Shore to ponder matters of faith and destiny, wondering about why some suffer so much when they don't seem to deserve it. As a writer, Thrasher's talent speaks for itself. He shows a deft touch with his narrative, using the slightest nudges to misdirect and create suspense, and at times he displays a subtle lyricism that's a pleasure to read. Readers can expect more good things from this author.

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