Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because I love the fall season, candy and the fun of dressing up. I also enjoy spooking myself with books and films so what better way to get in the festive mood than to highlight some of this year’s creepiest reads. I’m so excited to be part of the Halloween Thrills & Chills Blog Tour hosted by the incredible The Midnight Garden.
I am honored to have Jonathan Stroud here on the blog today talking about his spectacular series, Lockwood & Co. These books are stellar! I adore the mystery and spooky aura he so deftly incorporates into these books. His characters are well developed and impossible not to love. You must give them a try if you’ve not. First, let’s meet the man behind the books…
Jonathan grew up in St Albans where he enjoyed reading books, drawing pictures, and writing stories. Between the ages seven and nine he was often ill, so he spent most of his days in the hospital or in his bed at home. To escape boredom he would occupy himself with books and stories. After he completed his studies of English literature at the University of York, he worked in London as an editor for the Walker Books store. He worked with different types of books there and this soon led to the writing of his own books. During the 1990s, he started publishing his own works and quickly gained success.
The Whispering Skull Synopsis
In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood’s investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper. Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George’s curiosity attracts a horrible phantom. Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood’s annoyance. Bickerstaff’s coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found. The author of the blockbuster Bartimaeus series delivers another amusing, chilling, and ingeniously plotted entry in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.
Guest Post: Jonathan Stroud on Fashion Accessories for Ghost-hunters
Traditional spooky stories, at least literary ones, tend to weigh the scales quite heavily in favour of the scary ghosts. These spectres are powerful and purposeful; they know they’ve got a job to do (usually involving vengeance, punishment or warning) and they knuckle down and get it done with maximum efficiency. The living protagonist of the tale, however, is usually a fairly wet specimen, being hapless, innocent and/or fatally curious, and (crucially) almost always vulnerable and alone. In other words, when something spectral comes calling, they’ve got precious few defences to offer. Usually the upshot is they die straight off, go mad with shock, or are otherwise enfeebled, wasting pathetically away or dying months later, never having spoken again. In other words, it’s an easy win for the ghost.
Not in my books, it’s not.
Don’t get me wrong. I still want my ghouls to be scary. I want them as sinister and horrible as I can make them. Cute dewy-eyed phantoms a la Caspar the Friendly Ghost need not apply. But I want it to be a fair fight between them and my child heroes, who (since the frankly rubbish adults can’t sense ghosts at all) are the ones who have to face them. It’s true the kids have strong psychic abilities, and are able to see, hear and otherwise sense supernatural things almost before they happen, but this isn’t itself a great defence. In some respects it actually makes them more vulnerable, since they see stuff (and hear stuff) that preys on their mind. No, they definitely need a bit of authorial assistance, going in.
What does this mean in practice? It means giving them nice clothes.
I intuited this right at the start, before I had a clue what the story was really about. The first scene of The Screaming Staircase sees Anthony Lockwood and Lucy Carlyle, two of our three heroes, arriving at a haunted house. They go to the door, ring the bell, stand there ready to be let in.
Lockwood’s nattily dressed in a suit and tie. He also goes in for a long coat that looks cool but has a tendency to get caught in things at moments of danger. He wears gloves against the spectral cold. (Under his shirt and trousers he’s probably got a set of thermals too, but we won’t go into this right now.) He’s also got ectoplasm-proof boots, made in London by a fashionable British footwear company. His outfit says: English, coolly assertive, upper-middle class. He’s not going to be overawed by any old scrubby phantom.
Lucy’s equally sartorially well-equipped for supernatural encounters. She goes for a neat parka, a warm jersey, a short and funky skirt, a set of (extra-warm) leggings, and another pair of swish boots. Unlike Lockwood, she has a woolly hat to hand; like him, she sports a long shiny rapier at her belt for dealing with spectres. Her look is rather more up-to-date and classless than Lockwood’s, but equally formidable.
The third hero, George Cubbins, is introduced later in the first book. He’s different again – generally appearing in a rather scruffy untucked T-shirt, jeans and massive trainers. More of a slacker-look, in other words (and the subject of much derision from Lucy), but it’s still a statement of youthful confidence.
So, like every set of professionals, Lockwood & Co. have a certain uniform. It helps give them power. What ghost wouldn’t be unnerved to face these three?
Be sure to visit the other blogs on the tour
Thrills and Chills: Halloween Event Tour with Jonathan Stroud, Hillary Monahan, and Laurie Stolarz
Wednesday, October 1
The Midnight Garden
5 Questions with Jonathan Stroud
Thursday, October 2
The Starry-Eyed Revue
Into the Spooky Swamp Setting of Mary: The Summoning
Friday, October 3
Rules for Surviving a House of Horrors (guest post by Laurie Stolarz)
Monday, October 6
Deleted Scene from Mary: The Summoning
Tuesday, October 7
Love is Not a Triangle
5 Questions with Laurie Stolarz
Wednesday, October 8
For the Love of Words
10 Great Horror Films with Jonathan Stroud
Thursday, October 9
How I Became a Horror Fan (guest post with Hillary Monahan)
Friday, October 10
Quiz: What Dark House Character Are You?
Monday, October 13
My Friends Are Fiction
Fashion Accessories for Ghosthunters (guest post by Jonathan Stroud)
Tuesday, October 14
The Flyleaf Review
5 Questions with Hillary Monahan
Wednesday, October 15
Books with Bite
Top 10 Items to Survive The Dark House Amusement Park
Thursday, October 16
The Social Potato
A Tour of Jonathan Stroud’s Writing Space