Earlier this year I met up with Alex Davis, the publisher and editor of Boo Books, at a comic fair in Sheffield. During our chat he mentioned a book that was going to be published by his press in the near future, which was about a cinema showing films for ghosts made by ghosts. I must say I was intrigued by the premise and looked forward to the day I could get my hands on a copy. That day came last Saturday, and believe me when I say it was worth the wait.
The story plays out over the last week/weekend of the school summer holidays in 1985, and starts with the lead character Sam Crowhurst cycling by the river after saying goodbye to his friends David and Emma. Sam is still getting over the death of his father, as is his mother, which is why he is in no rush to get home. While meandering by the river Sam comes across an old shack with a bit of an old movie poster in it. The shack leads to a path which leads inevitably, to The Electric, an abandoned cinema. Though it is deserted and nigh on derelict Sam feels drawn to it and sets off to explore. What he, and his friends when he fetches them to see it the next day, will find at The Electric will change them all.
I can't say too much about the plot as it may well spoil the reading experience of this quite wonderful book, but the general gist is that there are ghosts in The Electric and they are watching films that were never made, starring actors from different eras of cinema. There is a magic on the screen but also, there is a magic here in the printed word.
The Electric is, at heart, a ghost story, but more chilling than horror in style. It is also, though, a coming of age tale. The three lead characters are all fifteen years old, approaching the last year of school and on the threshold between childhood and adulthood. Two of them have lost a parent so there is grief and sorrow thrown into the mix of teenage emotions. I thought I had the general idea of where the story was going to end up but I'm not ashamed to say I was only partly right. There were two scenes at the end that I honestly believe will stay with me for a very long time, and one sentence that actually brought tears to my eyes.
On this showing, Andrew David Barker is one to watch for the future, an author with a writing style that draws you into the book and into the story knowing you are in safe hands but not sure what will be round the next corner. The book reviewed is a limited edition hardback (98/150) but is also available as a kindle edition. I bought the copy myself so feel justified in giving it 10/10 for both the story and the physical book itself.
Andrew David Barker and Boo Books (Alex Davis) - remember those names, you'll be hearing more from both of them in the future.