For this week’s edition of You Should I’m going to talk about one of my most recent favourite authors. That’s none other than Paul Tremblay, as the title says. If you’ve read some of my stuff before you probably know that I’m a voracious reader. I try to add variety and a lot of different authors, but there are times where I end up reading like three or four books by the same author. Usually that same author is Stephen King, but this year Paul Tremblay joined that club.
I’m not mentioning Stephen King gratuitously here (for a change). I first heard of Paul Tremblay after King tweeted this (below) a while back. His Twitter account isn’t just shit-posting or corgi photos; a lot of the time he talks about movies, TV shows or books he likes. So this caught my eye:
A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS, by Paul Tremblay: Scared the living hell out of me, and I'm pretty hard to scare.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 20, 2015
If you ask me, that’s one hell of an endorsement. I tend to trust King‘s recommendations most of the time, so I figured nothing could go wrong here. Rather than focusing on Tremblay‘s life, I’ll focus on the books of his I’ve read.
He’s written seven books, two of them are a duology about a narcoleptic private detective, another is a collaboration with another writer, and another that seems to be a satirical science-fiction novel. I’ve only read his three most recent books, which could be classified as horror, and they’re incredible. And since it’s the season for it, I felt it was appropriate to write about them.
A Head Full of Ghosts
I read this one just because of King‘s recommendation and I was blown away by it. I assumed I’d like it because buzz around this book had been positive but I hadn’t expected to like it as much as I did. It was also one of those cases where I happened to read books that influenced this one before I started it. A Head Full of Ghosts is the lovechild of Shirley Jackson‘s We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Exorcist.
It focuses on the Bennett family, who have fallen into hard times. The patriarch of the family has lost his job and becomes a religious zealot. His wife is the only one with a job and they’re living paycheck to paycheck when their oldest daughter, Marjorie, begins to show signs of mental instability. The mother believes she needs therapy, but the father believes she’s possessed by a demon. So the Bennetts end up becoming the focus of a reality show that will lead up to Marjorie’s exorcism.
Most of the novel is told from the perspective of the little sister, Merry. As a grown-up she meets a writer who’s researching what really happened in the show and its aftermath, and Merry’s perspective for the first time. The book focuses on Merry in the past, Merry in the present as she talks to the writer but it’s also interspersed with blog entries focusing on someone doing a rewatch and review of the reality show.
It’s an amazing book. Tremblay won the Bram Stoker Award for it in 2015 and Robert Downey Jr is on board as a producer for a film adaptation.
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
This book focuses on the disappearance of a 14-year old kid, Tommy Sanderson, during a sleepover with his friends.
It focuses mainly on his mother and sister, Elizabeth and Kate, as they deal with it. The police can’t find any clue and his friends have no idea where he’s gone (although they might not be telling all they know). But if that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth sees something she believes might be Tommy’s ghost. And shortly after that she begins finding pages of Tommy’s journal that paint a different picture of her son, and makes her believe that his disappearance might not be exactly what it seems.
While the supernatural elements of this novel are at a bare minimum (or are they?) Tremblay focuses on a different aspect of fear here. You can feel Elizabeth’s pain and sorrow seeping through the pages. While I didn’t love this one as much as Head Full of Ghosts, I was still in awe by the book and it helped me get through one of my most recent flights back to Ireland. I was so enthralled by it I just didn’t care about how much of a pain in the ass flying is.
The Cabin at the End of the World
This one is Paul Tremblay‘s most recent novel and I still find it hard to put my thoughts about it into words.
A gay couple and their adopted daughter go on a vacation to a secluded cabin in New Hampshire. It’s so isolated they don’t have phone reception and their closest neighbours are about two miles away. While the girl is trying to catch grasshoppers, she sees a man called Leonard who comes up to her and starts making small talk and playing with her. The conversation suddenly turns strange when he apologises and tells her that what’s happening is not her fault.
Three more people approach, all carrying strange weapons, so she goes to tell her parents and Leonard tells her: “We’re going to need your help to stop the end of the world.”
What follows is an incredibly gut-wrenching novel, and as it happens one of the best novels of the genre. You’re really not sure what’s happening at any point. Maybe the world is really ending, or maybe things are fine and these people are just crazy. Who knows? I only know that I couldn’t put it down and I read it in three days. It certainly puts an interesting spin on home invasion as a genre.
Anyway, if horror books are your thing then you can’t go wrong with giving Paul Tremblay a look. Personally speaking, I’m looking forward to his next book!
Have you read Tremblay? Are you a fan? Let us know in the comments!
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.