That’s spooks in the ghost sense rather than spies. Ghosts lend themselves to short stories apparently (think Edgar Allan Poe) – maybe their lack of substance means they lack staying power. That being said, ghosts have had an impact on several novels as well, from the ghoulish-minded 19th Century to the ghoulish-minded Neil Gaiman (absolutely no offence meant).
- The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman. Still waiting, but I already have opinions (never let the fact that you haven’t read a book stop you); I think they should turn this one into a movie! Since The Jungle Book worked so well as a film there’s no reason why this one wouldn’t (although it’d need a song as awesome as “The Bear Necessities” of course).
- The Ghost’s Child, Sonya Hartnett. An old lady is visited by a ghostly child and (if I remember rightly) serves him tea. What results is the unveiling of the old lady’s story, in particular her relationship with an “unworldly” young man she meets on a beach. Sonya Hartnett has a deft writing style – check her out if you’re interested in poetic writing that’s not overdone.
- Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte. A personal favourite of old Bella Swan’s. The narrator (not Nelly, the other one) is disturbed late at night by a strange spook clawing at his bedroom window, which is a bit nasty really. It’s Catherine Earnshaw, wailing and winding her way around the Yorkshire Moors. Trying to find Heathcliff no doubt, who, if he had any sense, would have hightailed it to somewhere like the Canary Islands, where he himself could haunt people in a warmer climate (Cathy’s rather high maintenance).
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. If I was ever going to steel myself and actually read something by Charles Dickens I’d say this would probably be the one. The ghosts in this are here to nag Scrooge into being, well, less Scrooge-like. Is it just me or is Scrooge a less interesting person at the end of the story?
- A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb. I thought it was well written and plotted, but I think I liked the potential better than the book, really. This is great if you like romance together with your ghosts, plus unexpected nice endings.
- The Complete Edgar Allan Poe Tales, (Edgar Allan Poe). Mr Ghost Story. Unfortunately I know nothing about him, for shame. Must have slept through that lecture.
- A Foot in the Grave, Joan Aiken. Joan Aiken wrote lots of short stories and short novels with ghosts (in them). Amazon.co.uk has this to say about A Foot in the Grave: “A truly creepy band of ghosts has conjured up in this unusual and compelling collection of tales. In New York, Zia Tisna’s weird dolls keep watch over a pair of young lovers, while out of the River Thames crawls a ghost baby to torment Janet. Cousin Cherry falls victim to Mrs Wildleve’s gale-force powers, and Uncle Avvie returns from the Dismal Swamp with a bag full of something sinister…”
- Beloved, Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison has won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, so she’s a force to be reckoned with. That said, I don’t particularly click with her style, but that’s okay; you don’t have to like everything that’s good (and you don’t have to dislike everything that’s not good). Beloved is widely regarded as her magnificent piece. The ghost here is that of a murdered child (the setting is post-Civil War), but also perhaps on a broader scale that of slavery in the southern states of America. You may have to use your brain!
- The Turn of the Screw, Henry James. Could this be the best ghost story? A complex, multi-layered thing that keeps you guessing and thinking, about two children who are haunted by their governess and her lover (or are they?).
- The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. She’s not strictly speaking a ghost, but I thought I’d finish off with this one anyway, as a salute to Peter Jackson’s soon to be completed film. Susie Salmon watches from Heaven (which is much like a playground) while her family and friends deal with the grief of losing her and the knowledge that the trail has gone cold in the investigation of her murder.