BOOKS: 20th Century Ghosts: Joe Hill

·2 min read

Jul. 30—"The Black Phone" is an excellent movie.

It is a coming-of-age horror story set in 1978 about a predator kidnapping teenage boys and how one boy is helped by the teens kidnapped before him. The movie is chilling and insightful. For anyone who was a teenager in 1978, the movie's scenery and props make it feel like a time machine.

The movie is based on a short story by Joe Hill, the author behind the comic book series "Locke & Key," which is also a TV series, novels such as "Heart-Shaped Box," "NOS4A2," "Horns," etc., and short-story collections, such as "20th Century Ghosts," which included the short story "The Black Phone."

Returning to the original story and other stories in "20th Century Ghosts" seemed only natural after such a gratifying and unexpected movie experience. First published in 2005, "Ghosts" does not disappoint on a second reading years later, two decades deep and counting into the 21st century.

"20th Century Ghosts" is a collection of mostly horror short stories.

In addition to "The Black Phone," readers will find a rural teen who happily awakes one morning as a giant bug, an old man who collects the last breaths of the dying, a boy made of inflatable plastic, a haunted movie theatre, a boy whose blanket-turned-superhero cape really flies, a love story among the extras of the filming of a George Romero zombie movie.

All of these stories have a sense of nostalgia to them, which often adds to the pulp-smell tingle of terror.

A couple tales are gems: "Pop Art" about the inflatable boy is probably the best along with "Better Than Home," a short story without an iota of the supernatural regarding the son of a baseball coach.

By the way, for anyone who doesn't already know, Joe Hill is the author's pen name. He was born Joseph Hillstrom King, the son of Stephen King.