What follow is an account, as I choose to remember it, of my twelfth year on this planet...
Against his parents' wishes and warnings, an outsider kid named Jake and his new friends join his eccentric Uncle Calvin in exploring the Fortean phenomena that Calvin sees lurking about their home town of Niagara Falls, Canada. Gradually, between the start of summer and Halloween, they become aware of an actual dark presence. It will prove very different from the kind you find in a ghost story.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson1, first published in April, 2018, delivers a bildungsroman , a nostalgic look at the 1980s, and stranger things: its plot will plunge Jake and his friends into the kind of evil that haunts our world. Initially as whimsical and airy as a campfire tale, the book will eventually deliver real chills. You'll wish that the protagonists only faced a ghost.
Davidson's vivid descriptions of Niagara Falls and its hidden history (real, invented, and borrowed2) evoke actual places, filtered through the perception of a twelve-year-old who wants to buy into his uncle's fascination with the occult forces that hide in plain sight. Readers will be more skeptical, and likely see, just ahead of young Jake, what really lurks behind his uncle's obsessions, and the reality that connects the disparate mysteries the Ghost Club investigates.
Davidson tells the story with a powerful, economical, and highly readable style. The book, however, is not without flaws. The depiction of the world surrounding the main story, the mundane places where school and work and the playground intrude, veer a little too far into the tropey and the clichéd. The child characters lean into stereotype, though they're believable stereotypes.
If you want to read a well-written, bittersweet/nostalgic3 coming-of-age yarn with a dark edge, I heartily recommend you join The Saturday Night Ghost Club.
1. Craig Davidson has published fifteen books thus far, some under the pseudonyms Patrick Lestewka and Nick Cutter. These include horror alongside works that have been compared favourably to Chuck Palahniuk's. Saturday Night Ghost Club contains references to some of his other novels.
2. He appears to relocate the Screaming Tunnel of Thorold, Ontario. Granted, one could get there by bike from Niagara Falls within an hour.
3. The hard copy features deckle cut pages that make it look like an older work. One of the paperback editions features artificial indications of wear on the cover.