Sunday, June 19, 2016

“An Empty Swing”

Chico writer N. J. Hanson probes the destructive power of revenge in a novel of paranormal horror, “An Empty Swing” ($18.99 in paperback from Tate publishing; also for Amazon Kindle).

Luis Chavez, a fifteen-year-old sophomore at West Point High School in an unnamed town, is drawn into a battle for his life when he meets a girl named Alice at the old playground in town. It is almost Halloween.

It turns out that Alice is dead, a ghost, a spirit hanging around the playground where almost a dozen children lie buried, the victims of a murderous child rapist still on the loose. She cannot pass into the “other world” until she is certain that her living sister, Cindy, is safe.

Cindy has taken the name Serena Ravenwood. “She was a junior, one year older than Luis, and the resident Goth chick. … She wore a long heavy coat and cargo pants with combat boots. The only bit of color at all was her bright red lipstick.” Luis is in the school library trying to figure out why he can see Alice when he meets Serena in the same section, and soon they realize who Alice is. Or—was.

Alice had been kidnaped, abused, and killed years before. Now, after Luis realizes he is a kind of “spiritual medium” who can see ghosts, he is drawn to the playground (and to Serena). Though the bully Butch is often the antagonist (he can see spirits, too), he’s not very smart.

Far more dangerous is Paul, the ghost of one of the children abducted, killed, and buried. Paul discovers he can move beyond the playground, can manipulate objects (like rocks and guns), and, feeling his power, murders his parents and brother (the fingers in the blender scene is especially sickening) and sets his sights on Luis (for taking away Alice’s attention). He even makes common cause with the molester.

It looks like Luis doesn’t have the ghost of a chance of escaping. But don’t count out the power of friendship. And love.

The author will be signing copies of his book Saturday, July 2 at ABC Books, 950 Mangrove Avenue in Chico, from 11:00 am – 3:00 p.m.

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