Today we welcome a guest post from author Ken McGorry. He shares with us how his book Hampton Ghost was born. It's available now on Amazon! There is also a sneak peek into the book below!
Date of publication: April 2016
Lyle Hall is a new man since his car accident and spinal injury. The notoriously insensitive Bridge Hampton lawyer is now afflicted with an odd sensitivity to other people's pain. Especially that of a mysterious young girl he encounters outside a long-abandoned Victorian house late one October night. “Jewel” looks about 12. But Lyle knows she’s been dead a hundred years. Jewel wants his help, but it’s unclear how. As if in return, she shows him an appalling vision—his own daughter's tombstone. If it’s to be believed, Georgie’s last day is four days away. Despite Lyle’s strained relations with his police detective daughter, he’s shocked out of complacent convalescence and back into action in the real world.
But the world now seems surreal to the formerly Scrooge-like real estate lawyer. Lyle’s motion in court enjoining the Town of
demolishing the old house goes viral because he leaked that it might be
haunted. This unleashes a horde of ghost-loving demonstrators and triggers a
national media frenzy. Through it all strides Lyle’s new nemesis in high heels:
a beautiful, scheming TV reporter known as Silk.
Georgie Hall’s own troubles mount as a campaign of station house pranks takes a disturbing sexual turn. Her very first case is underway and her main suspect is a wannabe drug lord. Meanwhile, Lyle must choose: Repair his relationship with Georgie or succumb to the devious Silk and her exclusive media contract. He tells himself seeing Georgie’s epitaph was just a hallucination. But a few miles away the would-be drug lord is loading his assault rifle. Berto needs to prove himself.
How Ghost Hampton Was Born
My wife and I were driving down a shady residential lane in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, one summer day a few years ago when she gestured at a nicely restored old colonial house. As we passed, she said, “I know the man who bought that house. He says it’s haunted.” Oh, really? “Yes. And they told him it was once a brothel.”
This was a few years ago. I was shopping my first novel, Smashed, and also looking for a new project. By the time we got out of the car, I had my title: Ghost Hampton.
A college professor of mine once told us English majors that you only title your work after you’ve written it -- so you know what it’s about. But now it was too late. I was in love with my title and would have to work backwards! Soon enough, I had a climax in mind: a troubled man trapped in an old house with some vicious, deadly supernatural being.
How trapped? Well his wheelchair battery had given out.
What’s he doing in a wheelchair? …Have to get back to you on that.
Where are his friends? He has none.
Family? Just an estranged daughter who wants nothing to do with him.
How did he get in this house? Uhmm…
Why does he have no friends? Err…
I had plenty of work ahead of me. For one thing, I had to move my setting away from the village where my wife and I have a little summer place. Bridgehampton looked good – situated in the middle of the posh Hamptons, but a place with lots of history and a surprisingly small off-season population of 3,000 locals. I’d need to fictionalize the place while creating a memorable cast of year-round characters. And I needed an “inciting incident.”
For my protagonist Lyle Hall and me, that incident coalesced around perhaps Bridgehampton’s most noteworthy landmark: its century-old memorial to those who lost their lives in America’s wars. The big old block of granite, which is real, stands in the middle of the village’s main intersection. That’s what Lyle Hall plows into, driving his Hummer too fast and trying to avoid a sweet old lady who’s blundered into his path. She does not survive. Lyle does, just barely, and when he emerges from coma we see he’s become a pariah in the eyes of an unsympathetic local population. And there’s something more: He can now hear and see disturbing things no one else can. Like the strange whispers that emanate from an abandoned old mansion known to all as “Old Vic.” The whisperers want Lyle Hall.
He heard her here. She was one of the whisperers. It seemed weirdly flattering at first.
Ensconced in the MediCab that exhausted evening of the detour, Lyle had the windows down, allowing in fresh air and the angling rays of the setting sun. Commuter traffic from the train station had been annoyingly redirected onto
Poplar Street. Fred crept forward, foot
on the brake, with eight more cars ahead of them. Wrung out after his
wrongheaded foray to Southampton, Lyle’s arms
and shoulders ached; muscles, joints, his hands too. And he felt the onset of
what Dr. Susan Wayne called “free-floating anxiety.” In Lyle’s case, a blob of
uneasiness that could intensify into inchoate dread.
He was slumped in his Mr. Potter when the imposing shambles of a house came into view on his right. Everybody called it Old Vic. Sporting dumb old “No Trespassing” signs as long as anyone could remember, it was commonly held that Old Vic was once a brothel. Long ago, when Bridgehampton was part of the
whaling industry, before it grew into a high-end summer getaway, real-estate
bonanza and snob haven.
Then there’s the suburban legend that Old Vic was haunted. Who says? No one and everyone, whether they believe it or not.
The MediCab was crawling by Old Vic when Lyle first heard the whispers. He rose on his elbows, his chair secured to the van’s floor, and listened. Cats in heat. No, wait. This was more subtle, conversational. A furtive murmur that piqued his curiosity. He needed to listen again.
“Hey Fred, make a right at the corner, please?”
“Course correction, Mr. Hall?”
“I want to circle back for another look at the old house. And Fred, call me Lyle, okay? Lyle is fine.” It had been six months with the same driver.
Fred made the turn. Any such whim of Lyle Hall’s, he knew, was good for a crisp off-the-books twenty. It was even worth a twenty to stop at the ATM—Lyle would entrust Fred with his debit card and pass code to avoid the hassle. He also let Fred smoke.
Fred drove around the block clockwise. From each side street Lyle got a view of Old Vic’s battered cupola poking above the trees and roof lines of summer homes. It was unsettling—the cupola, a little booth standing atop the third story, was Old Vic’s most exposed and weather-beaten feature. Any paint was scabby and vestigial. The cupola’s large oval oculus suggested a blinded Cyclops, its leaded glass shattered by determined boys with BB guns long before Lyle was born.
They turned onto Poplar again, and approached the house.
“Slow down, please, Fred? Actually, could you park?”
Fred did so. Odd request, but Mr. Hall is, or was, a real estate tycoon.
“And roll down the windows, please? And mind turning off the radio? ...Thanks. Cut the engine too, please, Fred? ...Thank you.”
If Mr. Hall wants to smell Old Vic, Fred figured, this could be worth more than one folded twenty. He glanced at Lyle through his mirror, lit a butt, and texted his wife.
To the west, clouds glowing orange and pink were eclipsed by the hulking old house. It grew darker. The last of the traffic was now gone. Lyle strained to hear. He tried to listen harder, if that’s possible.
About the author:
Ken McGorry has been writing since third grade. (He learned in first grade, but waited two years.) He started a school newspaper with friends in seventh grade, but he’s better known for his 23 years as an editor of Post Magazine, a monthly covering television and film production. This century, he took up novel-writing and Ghost Hampton and Smashed are examples. More are in the works, like the promised Ghost Hampton sequel, but he’s kinda slow.
Ken lives on
with his wife and they have two strapping sons. There are dogs. Ken is also a
chef (grilled cheese, and only for his sons) and he enjoys boating (if it’s
someone else’s boat). He has a band, The Achievements, that plays his songs
Back at (English major!),
he was a founding member of the venerable Meade Bros. Band. Ken really was an
employee of Dan’s Papers in the Manhattan
one college summer, and really did mow Dan’s lawn.