Summary (from the publisher): Haunted? Or blessed? Ghosts? Or guardian angels? Twelve new stories of gay men and the memories that haunt them. A circuit boy stays at a haunted hotel. An actor recounts a grisly murder in the English countryside. A gay parent unravels a mysterious souvenir. A journalist chases a story through the streets of Amsterdam. An artist grapples with his muse. A musician is inspired by the spirit of a sailor. Jameson Currier modernizes the traditional ghost story with gay lovers, loners, activists, and addicts, blending history and contemporary issues of the gay community with the unexpected of the supernatural.
My Review: The Haunted Heart and Other Tales is not your typical single-author ghost-story anthology. That’s to say that it isn’t your typical ghost-story anthology of today. This collection hearkens back to days of “gentler” ghost-stories, the type of ghost stories that I grew up on. In fact, as I was reading this, the style reminded me very much of Ambrose Bierce crossed with the old Alfred Hitchcock magazine stories. (Interestingly, going back and reading the foreword and afterword, these appear to be some of Currier’s influences). This is not a bad thing. This, to me, is a very good thing.
Readers expecting today’s traditional ghost-story line-up might be a bit disappointed in this collection, but what Currier has done is gone back to the type of stories he (and I) enjoyed in his youth. Stories where the ghost is not only an apparition, but a metaphor, a commentary on various aspects of humanity. In that respect, the title of the collection is perfect in that this is about Haunted people; not necessarily ghosts that terrorize the reader.
Some of the stories do work better than others, but there really isn’t a bad story here. A few tweaks with pacing might have helped to liven up those with which I connected less, and I would have liked a little more “show” rather than “tell” in a few of them, but again this goes back to the source of inspiration, being particularly evocative of Bierce. Most effective are those stories which have a strong through line with the AIDS epidemic; the experience of living though it or not; of having survived it or not. There is exceptional emotion here and Currier uses the ghost-story milieu to look deep into the human soul and psyche.
In the end, the ghosts in Currier’s gentle collection didn’t give me chills or frighten me, but what they did do is leave me haunted. Just as the title promised. Highly recommended.