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Book Reviews and Recommendations

Spotlight on: lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub
Alternate Recommendation: The Wavedancer Benefit: A Tribute to Frank Muller
by Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, and Peter Straub

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lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub Peter Straub, lost boy lost girl

Though I've had problems with his novels in the past, with his sixteenth (winner of the 2003 Bram Stoker award for best novel), Peter Straub has brought me back into the fold. Any writer who can combine all the best elements of mystery, horror, haunted house, serial killer, and literary fiction into an emotional rollercoaster with a heart, like lost boy lost girl, deserves as wide a readership as he can get.

When his sister-in-law dies "without warning" (which he finds is a euphemism for suicide), bestselling horror novelist Tim Underhill (Straub doppelganger and recurring character along with Tom Pasmore of the recent "Blue Rose" novels Koko, Mystery, and The Throat) flies back home to Millhaven, Ill. to be with his brother, Philip, and 15-year-old nephew, Mark. Not long after Tim returns home, he gets a frantic call from Philip with the news that Mark has disappeared. And evidence points to the idea that the long-empty house at 3323 North Michigan Avenue once owned by serial killer Joseph Kalendar may have had something to do with both.

Ever since Julia, Peter Straub has joined the ranks of subtle horror, patterning himself after the writings of masters like Henry James while retaining his own modern sensibilities. lost boy lost girl represents the peak of his craft's development. It takes after such supernatural thrillers as The Turn of the Screw while remaining firmly in the present day.

While telling an essentially linear story, Straub jumps back and forth from past to present and from one point of view to another. Tim Underhill is the central character but the emotional core lies in young Mark, whose life is the most affected by the events in the story. It is also he whose actions most affect the other characters as he explores the house (which he believes was responsible for his mother's suicide) and finds some unexpected contents that will change his life forever.

Straub uses many varying methods to tell his story: second-hand rememberance as Mark's best friend Jimbo talks to the police and Tim, Tim's journal kept during the period, third-person narration (both Tim and omniscient), and first-person non-journal narration from Tim's point of view. Yet, he somehow manages to make it all flow into a coherent narrative that any genre fan will love to dive into. lost boy lost girl is proof that one of the legends of the horror genre is not content to rest on his laurels, still choosing to develop his writing and remain deserving of his title.

Wavedancer Benefit by Peter Straub Alternate Recommendation:
Stephen King, Pat Conroy, John Grisham, and Peter Straub,
The Wavedancer Benefit: A Tribute to Frank Muller

Some time ago, audiobook reader Frank Muller--probably the closest thing to a superstar the audiobook industry has ever had, and a personal favorite of myself and these four authors--was in a terrible motorcycle accident, almost killing him. He has had a long recovery and may never work again, and The Wavedancer Benefit was made to raise funds for Muller and other disabled readers through The Wavedancer Foundation.

Recorded live at New York's Town Hall, these four authors gave a benefit reading from their own books as further fundraising. Two cassettes comprise the package, with each author taking up one side of a tape. Grisham starts off by reading a chapter from his novel The Summons. His slight Southern speech takes you right into the world of his novel, sounding like a kind uncle telling you a story. Next Peter Straub comes to the stage and reads a suspenseful piece from Black House, the second novel he has coauthored with King and the sequel to their popular fantasy The Talisman.

Next, Stephen King takes the microphone and reads a short story included in his novella "The Body" (from Different Seasons) the title of which I do not feel comfortable transcribing on a family-oriented website, but fans will likely get a kick out a blueberry pie-eating contest that goes horribly awry. I've never liked King's readings of his own works. His glottal L's always take me right out of the story. Tongue behind the teeth, Stephen.

To end, Pat Conroy comes onstage and talks for a while about the practice of writing. All the authors are congenial, and surprisingly funny, making The Wavedancer Benefit a real treat. Recommended particularly to those who enjoyed King's live recording of LT's Theory of Pets, as this has a similar feel.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2003. Reprinted with permission.

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