The Loveliest Deadby Ray Garton
Horror master Garton delivers his usual ironic and macabre touches as the dead—who are, in fact, pretty ugly—make life a hell for the living.Following a sequence of increasingly dire personal tragedies, culminating in the unexplained death of their four‑year‑old son, Josh, Jenna and David Kella plan to make a new start of their
Horror master Garton delivers his usual ironic and macabre touches as the dead—who are, in fact, pretty ugly—make life a hell for the living.Following a sequence of increasingly dire personal tragedies, culminating in the unexplained death of their four‑year‑old son, Josh, Jenna and David Kella plan to make a new start of their lives on the old family homestead they have inherited just outside Eureka, California, with their surviving son, Miles. What they discover, though, is a nightmare. Ghostly children play on the backyard swings and vanish abruptly. In a cruel and maddening irony, one of the child ghosts resembles Josh. The frights and horrors pile up as psychics, Ouija boards, and poltergeists join the mix.
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Read an Excerpt
The Loveliest Dead
By Ray Garton
Copyright © 2006
All right reserved.
Saturday, November 18, 2001
Dawn was just beginning to break when Jenna woke to the sound
of Josh crying in his room. He was trying to be quiet, but the
apartment was small, and Jenna had become a much lighter
sleeper than usual lately. She got up quietly so she wouldn't
disturb David, but he turned over anyway and lifted his head.
"Whasmatter?" he said, facing her with closed eyes.
"Josh is crying," she said, and David's eyes opened.
She crossed the hall to the boys' bedroom. Seven-year-old
Miles was asleep in his bed. Josh sat leaning forward on the
edge of his bed in his blue Bugs Bunny pajamas, head held in
his small hands, blond hair spikey. It was an unnatural
posture for a four-year-old boy - the posture of someone whose
Jenna went to Josh's bed and sat beside him, put an arm around
him. "Oh, baby, is your head hurting again?" she whispered.
He sniffled as he nodded once.
"Why didn't you wake me, sweetheart?" It was not the first
time she had awakened to find Josh up with a headache. He
seemed to think it wasn't important enough to wake her, and it
broke Jenna's heart.
David stepped into the room tying the belt of his gray
Terrycloth robe. "How's my buddy?"
Josh did not look up.
Jenna whispered to David, "Could you get his pills from the
medicine cabinet? He's got another headache." To Josh, she
said, "Come on, get up on Mommy's lap." She reached for the
glass of water on his bedstand as he got on her lap and leaned
into the crook of her arm. David quickly returned with the
orange bottle of pills, removed the cap, and shook one into
Jenna's palm. "Okay, honey, I want you to swallow a pill for
Josh slowly lifted his head and looked at her with puffy,
barely-open eyes. He opened his mouth and flattened his
tongue, where she carefully placed the pill.
"A couple big swallows, now." Jenna put the glass to his lips,
tilted it back. For a moment, his gulps were the only sound in
the room besides Miles's gentle snoring. When he was done, she
handed the glass to David, who put it back on the bedstand
with the pill bottle. She put her arms around Josh and rocked
him as she said, "Honey, you've got to wake me up as soon as
your head starts to hurt, okay? I want you to, so I can give
you your pill. The sooner you take it, the better it works.
He said nothing, but she knew he was not asleep.
Jenna quietly hummed Brahms' Lullaby as she stroked Josh's
back. After a couple minutes passed, she looked up at David,
who stood silently beside her with his arms folded across his
broad chest. "We've got to get a second opinion," she
David spread his arms, then let them drop at his sides. "I
know we do, but I don't know how. We can't afford the opinion
"If I have to get on my hands and knees and beg another doctor
to take a look at Josh, I will. I mean, how long do these
damned pills have to not work before Dr. Peters admits they're
"If we manage to get a new doctor, there's no way we could
afford to pay for all those tests again."
"Even if we could afford it, I wouldn't make him go through
them again. The new doctor will just have to look at the
results of the first tests. Those things scared the hell out
of him, those big noisy machines."
Jenna brushed a strand of her long blonde hair from her face
and put her cheek against the side of Josh's head. He felt
warm against her, limp in her arms.
Jenna and David had not been sleeping well. She was 27 and
David was 28, but constant worry and lack of sleep since
Josh's headaches began had added lines to their faces. The
last three hours had made up the best sleep Jenna had gotten
in as many nights. Her pale face was splotchy and puffy, her
blue eyes half-closed as she gently rocked Josh in her arms.
"Are you feeling any better, sweetheart?" she whispered.
After a moment, Josh said, "Uh-uh." His voice was a moist
Looking up at David again, Jenna said, "I don't know why I
even bother giving him those pills. I just don't know ... what
else to do." She felt like crying, but she was too tired.
Still rocking Josh, Jenna hummed the lullaby again. She
glanced up at David and saw he had his arms folded over his
chest again and shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
His angular face looked sleepy and his thick, curly,
chocolate-brown hair was wildly mussed on one side and flat on
the other, but his muscles were tense and he was agitated. His
sleepiness could not hide the concern in his eyes. Jenna
wanted to hold him, too, but she kept both arms around Josh.
The boy startled her by sitting up suddenly and looking
directly into her eyes. He frowned, but it was not an upset
frown, or even a painful one. It was thoughtful, and a little
frightened. She stopped rocking.
Josh said, "Mommy -"
It was the way he always said it when he had something
important to tell her. Jenna recognized the tone immediately.
But he did not continue.
"Yes, honey," she said.
Clenching his eyes shut, Josh opened his mouth and screamed so
loudly that Jenna's ears rang. A dog barked outside. The
scream stopped after what seemed a deafening eternity, and his
body became stiff in her arms across her lap.
Jenna said, "Josh? Josh!"
David knelt in front of her and put an arm around Josh's
Miles sat up in bed, clutched the blankets in his fists, and
looked over at his brother.
Josh's body fell limp again. His head flopped backward and his
eyes opened. The glow of dawn was coming through the window
above his bed, and in the soft light, Jenna saw the pupil of
Josh's left eye suddenly dilate, but only the left.
She screamed, "He's stopped breathing!"
"No!" David said, his hand on Josh's chest. "He's breathing,
but it's very weak. I'll call an ambulance." He rushed out of
the room and his bare feet thumped through the small
Sobbing, Jenna pulled him to her and began rocking him again.
In her mind, all she could see was that single pupil dilating
over and over. She did not know what it meant, but knew it
could not be good.
Miles did not move, just sat in bed gripping the blankets in
"C'mon, honey, c'mon, Josh," Jenna said between sobs. "Hang
on, Josh, hang on. Tell me what you were going to say. What
were you going to tell Mommy, sweetheart? Huh? What was it?
C'mon, tell Mommy, tell me what -"
A shudder passed through Josh's small body and a gurgle
rattled in his throat.
Jenna performed CPR on her son until the ambulance arrived and
a paramedic took over, but Josh never recovered. He was
pronounced dead at 7:48 a.m.
Hardly a day had passed since without Jenna Kellar wondering,
at least once, what Josh had been about to say to her.
Excerpted from The Loveliest Dead
by Ray Garton
Copyright © 2006 by Ray Garton .
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Ray Garton is the author of sixty books, including horror novels such as the Bram Stoker Award–nominated Live Girls, Crucifax, Lot Lizards, and The Loveliest Dead; thrillers like Sex and Violence in Hollywood, Murder Was My Alibi, and Trade Secrets; and seven short story collections. He has also written several movie and TV tie‑ins and a number of young adult novels under the name Joseph Locke. In 2006, he received the Grand Master of Horror Award. He lives in northern California with his wife.
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This book is pure Garton at his best. The Loveliest Dead is a haunted house novel, but it is a *scary* haunted house novel, not merely formulaic. Garton provides a believable cast of characters whom we come to care about. And then rips reality out from under them. It's been a long time since a book made me keep reading into the night...and then turn a light on before going to bed. The Loveliest Dead was a nice surprise from one of my favorite authors, and I hope to read more by him soon.
I'd love to see this story as a movie
The plot was sound, the characters believable. I enjoyed the author's version of the professional ghost/demon hunters & immediately knew who had inspired those characters. All in all a good book to pass the hours with. I didn't want to put it down! However, there were typos and formatting problems in some sections of the nook version. That's the only reason I gave it 4 & not 5 stars.
I went to the book store to pick up a new horror book and had no I idea what to get. I looked upon this book on the shelf , read the back and found it interesting. I had no idea I would be hooked on it and finish it in two days. I just couldn't put the book down. I will definately get more of his books in the future.It's a must read for people that love ghost stories, suspense and horror. I loved it!!
Three years old Josh Keller screams in severe pain waking up his sleeping parents. His migraine medication fails to relieve him from his latest headache in what has been an almost unrelenting series of pain suffered by the kid. Jenna and David decide to rush him to the hospital, but he dies in his mom¿s arms. --- Several years later, the Kellers have not recovered from their loss. They move to a new home with their other child Miles and his maternal grandmother Martha recovering from a debilitating stroke Jenna and David hope to put the tragedy behind them. However, they begin seeing and hearing weird things. Jenna sees a toddler who appears and disappears magically out of thin air Martha watches children playing on the backyard swings only to see them vanish Miles watches an obese man coming from out of his floor every night finally David is awakened every night by the sound of children in the backyard. They will soon learn from a neighbor Lily the psychic that the violent truth is in the past in the basement. --- This is a strong haunted house tale that though somewhat typical of the genre grips the audience because there is a sense that Josh is involved either reaching towards his parents from the grave or through a psychologically disturbed mother. The story line provides a deep atmosphere of foreboding that something malevolent resides in the new house will bring danger to the living occupants while at the same time believe that the love for his parents and the innocence of the late toddler would never let that happen. Ray Garton provides a great horror tale refreshed by the question of whether Josh is the center of the paranormal happenings. --- Harriet Klausner
To most people it's just a large house, old and a bit run-down. To the Kellar family it's a new start, a chance to wipe out the painful past and begin again. But soon it will become a living nightmare. The terrors begin before the Kellars have even finished unpacking. They hear things, see things, shadowy glimpses into the impossible, things that are there-and then gone. Who are the mysterious children playing on the rusty, vine-covered swing set in the backyard? Who is the figure sitting in the dark corner of the bedroom at night? Who - or what - waits in the basement? They are the dead and they cannot rest. Horror stalks the halls of the Kellar house. And the secrets of the past are reaching from beyond the grave to destroy the living.