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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: Haunted Attractions with your Other Father

9th Aug, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Released in paperback by Cemetery Dance Publications in May 2022, Haunted Attractions with your Other Father is the second book in Norman Prentiss' 'Other Father' series, and as it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts there had better be a third volume (Prentiss has said that he's working on it). I have the first volume, Odd Adventures with your Other Father, on my tablet along with a couple of thousand other books I haven't as yet got round to reading.

At bottom what we have here is a series of short stories with a framing narrative that feeds into and takes out of the source material. I'll get that framing device out of the way first. Shawn and Jack are two gay men and Celia is their adopted daughter, only Jack is dead and his ghost is restricted to the room in his parents' house where he died. Shawn is the only one who can see him and has to continually come up with excuses to visit the in-laws. The overarching plot line concerns Shawn's various attempts to secure open all hours access, with Jack and Celia co-operating. In-between times, Shawn relates to Celia some of the adventures the two had on a road trip during their time together. Jack was attuned to the supernatural and had the power to fabricate gruesome visions that were seen only by Shawn. They visited various places where the numinous intrudes into our world.

And so to the stories...

"Boardwalk Thrill Ride" tells of a visit to a fairground's Haunted House where Jack inflicts on Shawn a vision of the world's end. At "The Theatre of Majiks" they are in the audience for an unusual and disturbing play where all the audience must wear masks. Their visit to "The House of Loathing" is a terrible ordeal for Shawn. "What Mystery, Stonehenge?" takes place at an American reproduction of the famous site, with various spirits antagonised by Jack's actions and Shawn dealing with the fallout. Finally in "Boardwalk Thrill Ride: The Return" Celia gets to visit the Haunted House for a spectral encounter of her own. As the book ends it becomes clear that there's a link between these adventures and Jack's power that plays into the greater picture and raises doubts about what is happening in the present moment.

This is fascinating stuff, no doubt about it; imagine if you can that Most Haunted was for real and interesting. The three main characters are well done, despite the fact that one of them is a ghost. Shawn is perhaps a little bit too much the accommodating lover, something that Jack takes full advantage of, and on that account while respecting their love I have to admit to at times wondering why the hell Shawn puts up with this guy (but then I often wonder why my partner puts up with me). Shawn's desperation at the possibility of losing Jack for good and his efforts to prolong their relationship are endearing. Jack, with his unusual gift, one that takes a macabre turn, is an intriguing character, somebody with a truly black sense of humour and the ability to indulge it in the worst/best possible way. Celia is in many ways little miss goody two shoes, but she learns from the things that are happening to her and grows as a character during the course of the book, often posing as the voice of reason, though usually her love for her fathers outweighs her better judgement.

The stories within the story are wonderfully crafted, taking us to the liminal places where our world merges with some other reality, often places that, like the bargain basement Stonehenge, should be cheap and tacky but have their own value. The Majiks episode reminded me of Ligotti's oeuvre, with its series of weird and disturbing events backed by a logic of their own. The Maze House episode brought to mind The Shining with Prentiss throwing everything at the page in the way of supernatural special effects as his hero moves from frying pan to fire and back again in a real trial of the spirit. The Stonehenge episode made me think of animism and the sacred places, with pagan worship thrown into the mix. And along the way, while giving us this panoply of supernatural thrills and chills, Prentiss also finds time to comment on homophobia and bigotry, with Shawn and Jack standing their corner in the face of prejudice.

Haunted Attractions with your Other Father is, as the title itself might suggest, a fun book with its place in the right heart, thoughtful and opinionated at times but not getting so obsessed with any message it has to the point that the onus to entertain the reader, or scare the reader shitless, is overlooked. I liked it a lot and am looking forward to reading the others in the series when time and circumstance allow.






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