Years ago I read something by Stephen King about his sons and their literary careers. I rushed to the library and picked up both boys' books. I was not overly impressed with Owen King but that may have more to do with his genre than his ability to write. Joe Hill, however, had my attention. His Heart Shaped Box had me from page one. As time went on, I forgot his name (happens to me far too often) and then dear ole dad mentions him again. This time in praise of his Locke and Key Graphic novel series. I head back to the library and get the first L&K book and 20th Century Ghost.
20th Century Ghost starts off with an introduction written by another author (who's name escapes me now) who was asked to write this intro but had never read anything by Joe. His reaction was the same as I had reading Heart Shaped Box - this man is awesome. There was a slight mention of where the various short stories that filled this tome had come from but mostly there was an awe of Joe's incredible talent.
20th Century Ghost consists of 15 short stories. Knowing Joe's previous works I was not surprised by the tone of the first story Best New Horror which followed an editor as he tracked down a new horror author only to find himself in the worst kind of story. The story was expected but it was still good.
However, none of that prepared me for the rest of the book. The second story 20th Century Ghost was a ghost story but more so - a wonderful romance between a man, a movie theatre and a ghost. It was sweet and subtle.
I'm not going to give you a blow by blow of each story in the book because I want you to have your own surprising experience. I will say that I think my favorite story was Better Than Home, a beautifully written story about a boy who has some sort of mental disability and how his family deals with him. There was no real ghost in this story nor was there any horror to be detected. It was just a beautiful story (I am running out of adjectives). I wish there was a way to just share that story with everyone I know (not that the entire book isn't worth sharing).
The stories are so varied that each one touches on a different genre. Joe Hill's ability to weave a story makes him more than a writer - he's an artist.