Rite stuff

Paul Trem­blay’s A Head Full Of Ghosts scares up some new twists on ex­or­cism sto­ries…

SFX - - Red Alert -

Most hor­ror fans will agree that The Ex­or­cist ru­ined pos­ses­sion sto­ries for­ever. Wil­liam Peter Blatty’s de­fin­i­tive spook-fest was so thrilling/hor­ri­fy­ing/ un­for­get­table that any­thing crawl­ing along in its wake couldn’t hope to es­cape its shadow. That’s why, when au­thor Paul Trem­blay de­cided to write his own pos­ses­sion story, he re­solved to con­front The Ex­or­cist head on. “Once I de­cided that I wouldn’t ig­nore the Blatty ele­phant in the room, it freed me up to roll around in the many tropes of pos­ses­sion sto­ries and hor­ror nar­ra­tives in gen­eral,” he tells Red Alert.

Trem­blay’s book, A Head Full Of Ghosts, puts a post-mod­ern (head) spin on the tra­di­tional ex­or­cism fable. Told from the point-of-view of eight-year-old Merry, it tracks in nerve-split­ting de­tail the sup­posed pos­ses­sion of her 14-yearold sis­ter, Mar­jorie. To com­pli­cate things, Mar­jorie’s “pos­ses­sion” is be­ing se­ri­alised on re­al­ity TV, and as the eerie hap­pen­ings build to a head, Merry’s fam­ily starts to splin­ter around her. But is Mar­jorie re­ally pos­sessed?

The book also time-jumps for­ward to an older Merry, and con­tains blog posts by some­body re­watch­ing the re­al­ity TV show. “All of it adds to [a] creep­ing sense of am­bi­gu­ity,” Trem­blay says, “to the idea that re­al­ity isn’t as sta­ble or eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able as we like to think.”

Of course, all of that would be for noth­ing if the book wasn’t pant-wet­tingly ter­ri­fy­ing. “I hon­estly had no idea if this novel would scare anyone,” Trem­blay ad­mits. “Early on, my agent told me an editor called him af­ter 11pm and said, ‘I just read the tongue scene and I need to talk to some­one to hear their voice.’ I pumped my fist and said, ‘Yes!’”

A Head Full Of Ghosts is pub­lished by Ti­tan on 27 Septem­ber.

Trem­blay de­scribes him­self as a mag­pie pick­ing through the scraps of a life­time of read­ing and film-watch­ing.

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