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