Ghosts Knowby Ramsey Campbell
Ramsey Campbell's Ghosts Know is a fascinating exploration of the twists and turns of reality-media personalities, the line between the dead and the living…and how the truth can be twisted to serve all manner of reality.
Graham Wilde is a contentious, bombastic host of the talk radio program Wilde Card. His job, as he sees it, is to stir/i>/i>
Ramsey Campbell's Ghosts Know is a fascinating exploration of the twists and turns of reality-media personalities, the line between the dead and the living…and how the truth can be twisted to serve all manner of reality.
Graham Wilde is a contentious, bombastic host of the talk radio program Wilde Card. His job, as he sees it, is to stir the pot, and he is quite good at it, provoking many a heated call with his eccentric and often irrational audience. He invites Frank Jasper, a purported psychic, to come on the program. He firmly believes that the man is a charlatan, albeit a talented one. When Jasper appears on his show, Wilde draws upon personal knowledge about the man to embarrass him on air, using patter similar to that which Jasper utilizes in his act.
Wilde's attack on Jasper earns him the enmity of his guest and some of the members of his audience. He next encounters Jasper when the psychic is hired by the family of a missing adolescent girl to help them find her. Wilde is stunned and then horrified when Jasper seems to suggest that he might be behind the girl's disappearance.
Thus begins a nightmarish journey as circumstantial evidence against Wilde begins to mount, alienating his listeners, the radio station, and eventually, his lover. As Wilde descends into a pit of despair, reality and fantasy begin to blur in a kaleidoscope of terror….
"Campbell is in top form, cleverly pulling readers’ strings at every turn."Publishers Weekly
Controversial radio talk show host Graham Wilde makes an enemy when he tries to expose a popular stage psychic, Frank Jasper, on his program. Jasper begins a campaign to implicate Wilde in the disappearance of a young girl, a case that captures the attention of the media and the public. Little by little, evidence builds, and Wilde finds himself up against a wall of opinion. Horror Grand Master Campbell's latest novel is a tour de force of subtle misdirection and gradually mounting, haunting terror. VERDICT The author of The Darkest Part of the Woods has created a quirky tale of terror and suspense that should please his fans as well as the general reading public.
- Tom Doherty Associates
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Read an Excerpt
By Ramsey Campbell
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2011 Ramsey Campbell
All rights reserved.
ON THE AIR
"And another thing about all these immigrants," Arthur from Stockport declares. "You won't want anybody hearing about the factory that's had to change its name."
"You're here to enlighten us, Arthur."
"Don't patronise me, Mr Wilde."
I've never had a caller make my name sound so much like an insult, though he's had plenty of competition. Beyond the soundproof window of the studio Christine twirls one finger in the air. "You've got just a minute, Arthur," I tell him. "We're nearly at the news."
"You always put anyone who thinks like me on last, don't you, Mr Wilde? Bob from Blackley, he's another. You haven't let us on for weeks and now I've not got time to say what I came on for."
"You're using up your minute, Arthur."
"It was a muslin factory till the lot who took all the jobs said it sounded too much like Muslim. They didn't fancy the idea you could make those in a factory, so they told the boss they'd get him done for being racist if he didn't call it a fabric manufacturer."
"Where did you hear about that, Arthur?"
"It's well known, Mr Wilde. Just try talking to a few people that live in the real world. And before you ask, the factory's somewhere in Lancashire. Pakishire, we'll have to call it if they carry on like this."
"You mustn't use words like that on here, Arthur."
"It's all right to call us Brits, but they won't let us call them —"
"That's all from Wilde Card for another lunchtime," I say not quite fast enough to blot out his last word, and flick the switch to cut him off. "Here's Sammy Baxter with the news at two o'clock."
I take off my headphones as Christine switches the output to the news studio. I'm leaning back in the swivel chair to wriggle my shoulders and stretch when Rick Till blunders in, combing his unruly reddish hair at the same time as dragging his other arm free of his leather jacket. He's always this harassed when he's due on the air, even though he isn't for five minutes. "All yours, Rick," I say as he hangs the jacket on the back of my chair.
Samantha's newscast meets me in the control room. "Kylie Goodchild's mum made an emotional appeal ..." The fifteen-year-old is still missing, but we don't hear just her mother's voice; it's underlaid by the kind of tastefully mournful music that films use to demonstrate they're serious. I'm so offended by the artificiality that I yank the outer door open and demand "Whose idea was that?"
Christine comes after me and lays a hand on my shoulder. "Graham ..."
Some of the reporters and presenters in the large unpartitioned newsroom glance up from their desks, and Trevor Lofthouse lifts his head. He shakes it to flip back a lock of hair and adjusts his flimsy rectangular spectacles but doesn't otherwise respond. "Do we really think we have to manipulate the listeners like that?" I'm determined to establish. "Do we think they won't care otherwise?"
"What are you saying is manipulation?" Lofthouse retorts.
"Calling it an emotional appeal. What other kind is she going to make? Who needs to be told?" As the news editor's spectacles twitch with a frown I say "And calling her the girl's mum. What's wrong with mother? It's supposed to be the news, not somebody gossiping over a fence."
"You're off the air now, Graham. No need to start more arguments today." Before I can retort that I never manufacture them he says "Why are you so bothered?"
"Maybe I hate clichés." I sense that Christine would like me to leave it at that, but I resent the question too much. "Can't we even broadcast an appeal without some music under it? We mustn't think too highly of our audience if we think they need to be told what to feel."
"It's from Kylie Goodchild's favourite film."
Lofthouse doesn't tell me so, and Christine doesn't either. Paula Harding has opened her door and is watching me across the length of the newsroom. Even though she needs heels to reach five feet, it's disconcerting that I didn't notice her until she spoke — I've no idea how much she overheard. "Which film?" I suppose I have to ask.
"To Kill a Mockingbird," says Trevor. "Her class are studying the book at school and they were shown the film."
I'd say it was an unusually worthy favourite for a girl of her age, but Paula calls "Can we talk in my office, Graham? I've just heard from one of your listeners."
Christine gives my arm more of a squeeze than she ordinarily would at work, and I lay my hand over hers for a moment. As I head for Paula's room everyone grows conspicuously busier at their desks. They're embarrassed to watch me, but I suspect they're also glad I've been singled out rather than them. Even Christine doesn't know what I'm thinking, however. If Paula means to lecture me or worse, that may be all the excuse I need.CHAPTER 2
HOW TO EARN SWEETS
As I close the door of Paula's office Rick Till speaks from the computer on her desk. "Here's Rick Till Five on Waves in Manchester," he says in a voice so suavely confident that I can hardly believe it belongs to the discomposed man who ousted me from the studio. He plays the station jingle — "We're the station that makes waves" — before starting to chat like a cross between a comedian and a chum who's dropped in. "It's Friend A Faith Day, so cuddle a Christian or snuggle a Sikh or hug a Hindu, or you could embrace an Evangelical or squeeze a Shintoist or make your own arrangements ..."
The name of the day is the reason I've had two hours of calls like Arthur's and a few more moderate. Paula perches on the cushion that adds stature to the chair behind her desk and plants her stubby hands on either side of the screen. "Let me just give you Rick's Trick for today," Till is saying. "What was the name of the ship in the Anthony Hopkins film of Mutiny on the Bounty? That's the Tony Hopkins one, not Charles Laughton or Marlon Brando." He doesn't simply say the names but adopts a version of the actor's voice for each. "Yesterday's winner was Annie from Salford, and the question was what were Fay Wray's first words to King Kong ..."
I hope Paula doesn't expect me to learn from his example, and my gaze drifts to the window behind her desk. Beyond the double glazing the canal glitters with sunlit ripples as a barge slips into the shadow of a bridge. The vessel is losing a race with a train on the left side of the canal and an equally elevated tram on the other, a contest that would be silent except for Till. "Time to rock with Rick. Here's the Gastric Band from Oldham with their new single, 'Eating Up the World' ..."
Paula turns him down at last. "Park your bum, Graham," she urges.
The low flabby leather chair I sit in gives a nervous fart on my behalf. Paula leans forward, but her straight black hair has been so thoroughly sprayed it doesn't stir. Chopped off straight at chin level, it lends her pale face the look of an Oriental mask. She's resting a hand next to a glass bowl of sweets, and perhaps I'm meant to be aware that she hasn't offered me one. "So what do you think of our Rick?" she says.
"I expect he's what people want to hear after two hours of me."
"We need to speak to all our audience." Paula sucks at a bottle of Frugen ("the trigger of vigour") and wipes the nipple before saying "Anyway, I heard from Arthur Mason."
"I don't think I know him."
"You were talking to him before you came out to complain about Mrs Goodchild."
"I wouldn't have said anything if I'd known it was her idea. You don't need me to tell you I hope she finds her daughter. I expect the girl's just gone off somewhere for reasons of her own. Girls that age often do, don't they?" In case Paula thinks I'm avoiding the reason that she called me in I say "I didn't know his name was Mason."
"He says he has to ring up dozens of times to get on the air, and you always put him on at the end. That'll be Christine's decision as your producer, will it?"
I don't want Christine to be blamed for any trouble I've stirred up. "Somebody has to be last. He had nearly five minutes."
"He's not the only one, he says. Does Bob from Blackley come to mind?"
"He used to be a regular, but we haven't heard from him for a while as far as I know."
"Mr Mason says that's because of how you dealt with him last time. Do you think we should listen to you, Graham?"
I've time to wonder if she's questioning my honesty before she takes hold of the computer mouse to bring up my voice from Learn Another Language Day, weeks ago. It sounds even more detached from me than it always does in my headphones. "And now here's Bob from Blackley ..."
"Get it right. There's no Blake about it."
"I believe it's always been pronounced Blakely, Bob."
"About time they called it black and have done with it. If that lot want us learning new words there's one for them."
"Which lot would that be, Bob?"
"The lot that has the law on us if we say anything they don't like, and it's the tax we've paid that pays for them to do it. It's getting so you won't even be able to say you're white."
"Why on earth would anybody want to stop me? As it happens I am."
"Half the time you don't sound it. It's the likes of you that want to stop us being proud of it. Where's White Pride Day with all these other days?"
"It might sound a bit like a kind of sliced bread, do you think?"
"More like you're scared to say there ought to be one. They wouldn't like it, the lot that's driving us out of our own country."
"Who's being driven, Bob? Whites are the largest group where you live." While speaking to him I'd found the statistics for Blackley online. "Less than four per cent black people, and —"
"Never mind your figures. You want to come and walk along the street here. You'd love it. It's full of the lot of them."
"You still haven't said which lot you mean."
"The Sicks and the Shites and the rest of their sort. You can't hardly move round here for refugees."
"It's Shiite, Bob, and how can you tell by looking? It's a religion, not a race."
"Don't talk to me about religion. That's their excuse for everything they get up to. I ought to tie a curtain round my head and then I could ride a bike without a helmet. Or I could say I'm an Islam or a Mohammed or whatever they like to be called and then I'd be able to tell the wife and the girl to hide their mugs and shut their gobs because Allah says so. Mind you, that'd be a blessing."
"Haven't you any faith of your own, Bob?"
"I've got plenty of that and it's all in myself. And I'll tell you what else I believe in, this life and that's your lot. The life these Islams and the rest of them want to rob off us." He's interrupted by a screech that puts me in mind of a butcher's circular blade. "I'm on the fucking radio," he shouts. "Close that fucking door or I'll fucking —"
"I'm sorry, you can't talk like that on the air. Gussy from Prestwich, you're live on Wilde Card."
"The things you have to deal with, I think it's time they had Presenter Awareness Day."
"I'm not going to argue with you about that."
"Sometimes what you think shows through, Graham," Paula says as she stops the playback.
I have the disconcerting sense that my voice has returned to me. "I wouldn't want to think I'm just controversy for hire."
"What do you think the new bosses would say if they heard all that?"
If she's decided I don't fit in now that Waves has become part of the Frugo empire, I'm glad. I almost retort that I may have had a better offer, but instead I say "What do you?"
"That you could have been sharper with him. You let him get away with those comments about women. Your show isn't called Gray Area any more. Remember your slogan."
"It's a phone-in, not a drone-in." I've played it so often that it starts up like a recording in my head. It was among my more desperate attempts to impress her with a brainstorm, and I barely managed not to laugh when she said it was the one she liked. "You want me to go on the offensive," I say but don't necessarily hope.
"If you feel it say it, Graham. Don't go too far but as far as you can. You know what Frugo tells everyone who works for them."
"I don't believe I've heard it," I say without wanting to know.
"Everything you do and say at work should be an ad for where you're working. Just do everything you can to make certain you're one, Graham. They'll be listening to our output before they come to visit. Let's make sure they know we're the ones making waves."
She sits back to end the interview. As I stand up, drawing a sound that might be a sigh of relief or resignation from the chair, she says "It's about time Bob was on your show again. Tell Christine to put him on next time he calls." This halts me long enough for her to ask "Was there anything else?"
I won't mention Hannah Leatherhead until we've had more of a word. I'm turning away when Paula says "Aren't you having your sweet?"
I'm reminded of visiting the doctor's as a child or of being rewarded with a sweet for some other unpleasant experience. Wrappings rustle as I rummage in the bowl and find a lemon drop. "Thanks," I say, mostly for the sweet, and hear Paula's keyboard start to clack as I reach the door.
Nobody in the newsroom seems to know whether they should look at me. I unwrap the sweet into my mouth and drop the cellophane in the bin beside my desk on the way to the control room. Christine spins around in her chair as I ease the door out of its rubbery frame. "Was it bad?" she murmurs.
She's enough of a reason for me to keep working at Waves — the eternal valentine of her gently heart-shaped face framed by soft spikes of black hair that's cropped to the nape of her long neck, her slim lithe body in a black polo-neck and matching jeans, her eyes alert for my answer, her pink lips parted in anticipation. "It isn't going to change my life," I say, which makes me aware that I've yet to mention Hannah Leatherhead.CHAPTER 3
STAGING THE ANCESTORS
It's Walk To Work Day, but every workday is for me. As I step out of the apartment building, where the massive lintel over the tall thick door still sports the insignia of a Victorian broker, the gilded nameplate of Walter Belvedere's literary agency glints above my handwritten cardboard tag. Perhaps he can place my novel if I ever finish it. A train swings onto the bridge over the street with a screech of wheels on the curve of the track, and I'm reminded of the noise that made Bob from Blackley lose control. Though the sun is nearly at its peak, the street is darkened by office blocks — you could imagine the shadows are their age made visible, more than a century of it. Sunlight meets me on Whitworth Street, where a man in shorts with a multitude of pockets is parading the biggest and certainly the bluest poodle I've ever seen. Along Princess Street girls are cycling in the first-floor window of Corporate Sana ("We mind if your body's healthy," says the slogan), but Christine isn't in the gym; she's producing the food and news show, Currant Affairs. As I pass her flat on Whitworth Street I glance up at the windows, but there's no sign of an intruder.
Where Oxford Street turns into Oxford Road a Palace faces a Palace. The one that isn't a hotel displays posters for an American psychic, Frank Jasper. Early lunchers are taking sandwiches or sushi down the steps to eat by the canal. They make me feel later than I am, and I hurry along the western stretch of Whitworth Street to Waves. The guard at his desk nods to me as the automatic doors let me in, and a lift takes me to the fourth floor, where Shilpa at Reception is on the phone, attempting to explain that there's no prize for solving Rick's Trick. My badge on its extending wire unlocks the door to the newsroom, where Trevor Lofthouse is playing back a television newscast on his computer. I'm making for my desk when I see the name Goodchild on the screen.
It's a press conference with Kylie Goodchild's parents and a teenager. At least it isn't using any music. Mrs Goodchild is a redhead, rather too plump for the unbuttoned jacket of her grey suit. Her husband is even broader and a head taller, and resembles a pugilist despite his tie and dark suit, mostly because of his large flattened nose. To judge by the name tattooed on the teenager's neck, he's Kylie's boyfriend. He's warning anyone who may have abducted her, in language so ferocious it blots out his mouth — censorship does, at any rate. Mr Goodchild jerks a hand that isn't quite a fist at him, and a journalist takes the chance to ask "Is it right you're bringing in a psychic?" As Goodchild gives a nod so fierce it looks defensive, his wife says "We'll do anything we've got to that will bring our Kylie back."
In the control room Christine meets me with a smile and a wave as if we didn't part just a few hours ago. The news gives way to my signature tune, and a girl's even brighter voice chirps my slogan as I don the headphones and read the screen. "First up is Margaret from Hyde," I say. "You're calling about Kylie Goodchild, Margaret."
Excerpted from Ghosts Know by Ramsey Campbell. Copyright © 2011 Ramsey Campbell. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Ramsey Campbell has won more awards than any other living author of horror or dark fantasy, including four World Fantasy Awards, nine British Fantasy Awards, three Bram Stoker Awards, and two International Horror Guild Awards. Critically acclaimed both in the US and in England, Campbell is widely regarded as one of the genre's literary lights for both his short fiction and his novels. His classic novels, such as The Face that Must Die, The Doll Who Ate His Mother, and The Influence, set new standards for horror as literature. His collection, Scared Stiff, virtually established the subgenre of erotic horror.
Ramsey Campbell's works have been published in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and several other languages. He has been President of the British Fantasy Society and has edited critically acclaimed anthologies, including Fine Frights. Campbell's best known works in the US are Obsession, Incarnate, Midnight Sun, and Nazareth Hill.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I have come to the conclusion that there is often a disconnect between British and American writers and readers. I wouldn't really classify this book as psychological suspense, though it was hard to put it into any category. I simply did not understand the narrator and main character of the story. He was constantly CONSTANTLY describing himself as in a rage, enraged, or trying to hold back his rage - most of the time for things that are minor annoyances. How can one identify with that type of character. Additionally, with the exception of a tacked on plot twist at the very end of the story, this was not a story about ghosts or the line between the living and the dead. At least I didn't see it. The banter was sometimes also difficult to follow--in part as to who was saying what, and more importantly WHY they were saying what they were saying. It just didn't keep my interest very well. I'd be interested in reading some reviews from Brittish readers to see if, perhaps, something is lost in the translation.
Being an avid reader, I am always on the hunt for new things to explore. When I saw this author written up as one of the top five horror writers, I was eager to take a look at his work and was bolstered by the fact that he had had so much published. I am deeply and profoundly sorry I spent $13 for this book. It was short and made even shorter by the gaping margins, spacing and large text. The story started off badly and proceeded to go downhill from there. The repetition of words is staggering. The plot was flimsy. And this was certainly NOT horror. I've seen better writing from grade school children. I'd give this a negative rating if I could. I want my money...and my time...back.