“Phantoms Revisited”

(The estimated reading time for this is 3 minutes)

“Phantoms Revisited” © 2014 by Gary Fry.  All rights reserved.

My first novel came out in 2010, published in the UK by PS Publishing. Pete Crowther’s excellent imprint specializes in splendid hardcover copies, both a deluxe signed edition and an unsigned trade edition. Either way, the books are necessarily quite pricey, but I’m now delighted to see the release of a version of The House of Canted Steps – the DarkFuse ebook – that is more affordable.

The book had its first glimmer of life on a balcony one morning in Spain, back in 2005. I was holidaying there and got up early, trying desperately – as was my youthfully impatience at the time – to come up with a novel’s plot. I wanted to do something creepy and family-oriented, preferably a haunted house story. Then I hit upon a premise which was really quite simple: if every family needs a home, what about a home that needs a family?

For personal reasons, I’d been thinking hard about stepfamilies and their differences from what we might call “natural” families (not a description I particularly approve of). And from that the central concept was born: imagine a house created by an architect who believed in the purity of familial bloodlines and who poured this narrow-minded poison into the building’s structure, even including a physical joke involving its steps – its canted steps; an oblique disapproval of what he regarded as unnatural families.

After that, the plot came easily, with some arch, suggestive scenes involving a spook I called “The Blood Boy” and – following a divorce and the formation of new adult partnerships – many complexities arising from two recently created families. The very final version of the story came along a few years later, having had time to percolate, and I wrote the whole thing quickly, maybe in three months.

In practice, the book surprised me by turning out to be a kind of detective story, with the protagonist Mark Cookson piecing together a back-story that cuts directly to the heart of his life and origins. I really enjoyed doing it like this, showing how the house at the core of the tale tugs at strands and manipulates people’s lives in a way that is insidious and yet plausibly ascribable to all the complications involved in everyday stepfamily life. I relish that kind of ambiguity, encouraging readers to question what is real or otherwise.

For this ebook version, I’ve pared down the prose, making the whole novel a taut, Kindle-friendly 60,000 words. Its page-turning narrative is designed to captivate and intrigue, while not sparing the chills which occur with great regularity and get much darker as the plot unfolds. I hope I’ve fashioned a suitably sinister conclusion, where everybody associated with the story comes home at last. For me, it’s my most symmetrically savage tale, with everything having an appropriate place…and that place being the House of Canted Steps.

So step inside, take a look around. There’s no obligation to buy. Those thoughts you’re entertaining as you ascend the property’s staircase are just your own desires and doubts, stealing in during this moment of respite, this temporary venture into what is surely a haven. Indeed, you feel calm here, don’t you? It’s almost as if you want to settle in the house forever.

Yes, the place will be good for you. Well, almost all of you. The pure ones, I mean. But…that’s all of us, isn’t it?

The House of Canted Steps would certainly like to think so.

God help you if it doesn’t.

 Gary Fry,
Whitby, UK

© 2014 – 2016, DarkFuse & individual contributors. All rights reserved.

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Gary Fry lives in Dracula’s Whitby, literally around the corner from where Bram Stoker was staying when he was thinking about that character. Gary has a PhD is psychology, but his first love is literature. He is the author of many short story collections, several novellas, including DarkFuse titles. He was the first author in PS Publishing’s Showcase series, and none other than Ramsey Campbell has described him as “a master.”

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