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The Haunting of James Hastings Author: Christopher Ransom <br />Publisher: Hachette AustraliaISBN 9780751543759RRP $32.99Reviewed by: CK Bray <br />The excerpts from reviews of Christopher Ransom’s first book which are splashed all over the cover of his latest novel, The Haunting of James Hastings, not only grabbed my attention but had me chomping at the bit to read his newest thriller. I’m an aficionado of scary books from way back; I’ve been a fan of King, Blatty and Slaughter for decades. So I was particularly excited to read a true master horror novel from an author who is purportedly “Scarier than the Shining”, “More Sinister than The Others”, and “More Shocking than The Orphanage.”<br />A few pages in, I kept checking the dust jacket to make sure the publisher had glued the correct manuscript into the dust jacket. We are introduced to a white rap artist named Ghost, who is eerily similar to Eminem. This is pretty much the only eerie thing about this story. Ghost writes songs with incredibly offensive lyrics, has a dysfunctional marriage to a woman named Drea-Jenna, and has a predilection for binges of alcohol, drugs and disappearing. Pretty standard behaviour for most rebellious rock stars. So, Ghost’s manager hires an actor named James Hastings to act as Ghost’s doppelganger.<br />James bears more than a passing resemblance to Ghost and, once he bleaches his hair, gets identical tattoos and dresses in the same track suits and singlets Ghost favours, he is easily able to imitate the massively famous rap star. This is helpful to throw press off the scent of a Ghost bender, make it seem as if Ghost is halfway around the globe from where he actually is or simply maintain Ghost’s public presence when he has, in fact, completely disappeared.<br />Not bad work, if you can get it. James is paid extraordinarily well for pretending to be Ghost, not to mention cash bonuses and the trappings like tickets, holidays, clothes and recognition that come with being part of the inner circle of a mega-star. When Ghost cancels a tour halfway through by claiming he is “emotionally exhausted”, James steps in to bring credence to the claim. Despite having misgivings about representing an individual who writes songs about having sex with a decapitated corpse while the head of the body is across the room taunting him in his mother’s voice. Ok, yes, the lyrics to Ghost’s songs were also, inadvertently, a very creepy part of the book.<br />James is married to a lovely woman named Stacey, who has white blonde hair and a sweet disposition. Stacey is suddenly; tragically killed in the alleyway behind the house she shares with James very early on in the story. It appears a truck ran her over, and then the driver tried to cover her crushed body under a large piece of scrap carpet. James discovers her body and wholeheartedly dedicates himself to a year-long alcohol bender so extreme it rivals “The Lost Weekend.”<br />During this year we, the reader, keep him company. Ransom spends an unbelievable amount of time outlining every infinitesimal detail of the life James now leads. James gets up from the leather lounge where he now sleeps, unable to return to his marital bed. James goes to the fridge. James gets a beer, one of the Mexican labels he is loyal to. James returns to the lounge. James drinks the beer. James gets up and gets another beer.<br />The agonising amount of detail was enough to practically put me into a coma of boredom. I kept realising that, far from being scared, I was annoyed. While I was reading this book I moved into a new flat, which typically can be a pretty spooky experience with new noises, mysterious bumps, creaks and taps. Not once did my heart rate increase nor did I furtively look under the bed or peer out the window, imagining some faceless ghoul. This book simply isn’t scary.<br />After dragging the year of beer on for many, many chapters, Ransom finally decides to put some excitement into the story. But it is all so concentrated and convoluted; I found it extremely difficult to follow. Additionally, I was so fed-up with the book by this stage, I really didn’t care. Is James really James, or is he Ghost? Is Annette, the new neighbour, really Annette, or is she Stacey reincarnated? Is Lucy just a cop, who also happens to be a neighbour, or is she also possessed by Stacey? I don’t know and didn’t care enough to re-read the ending of the book again to find out. My recommendation? Choose another ghost story.<br />