Kim Cool,
Ghost Stories of Venice
(Historic Venice Press, 2002)

When Kim Cool wrote me a charming letter asking for my input on her new book -- her first collection of ghost stories -- I obviously could not refuse. My own fascination for regional tales of hauntings is well known and can be roused even when I've never been to the area of focus.

So, when Ghost Stories of Venice arrived, I packed it among my things for a week's holiday in southern Maine and prepared to saturate myself in Florida lore.

I give Cool credit -- she has a pleasant, conversational style of writing and presents an enjoyable, wide-eyed perspective on the possibilities of a supernatural afterlife. The biggest problem with this book, unfortunately, is Venice itself.

It just isn't very haunted.

It is unquestionably problematic to spotlight a town without ghosts in a book of true ghost stories. That Cool managed to fill more than 100 pages in this slim volume can be credited largely to her liberal use of local history and trivia to flesh out the content. She uses a fair number of photographs from the town and far too much tacky, low-resolution, computer-generated clip art to provide decorative borders (and take up space) on her pages.

Her conversational style of writing sounds stilted only when Cool insists on referring to herself in the third person, an affectation that rarely works. Conversational text should sound like a conversation, obviously, and when you're talking to a group of friends, you don't usually refer to yourself as "this person" or "this speaker." (At least, this reviewer is not in the habit of doing so.) Too, Historic Venice Press should provide writers with a better proofreader, as a few too many typographical errors made it into print.

But the major flaw here remains the lack of good ghost stories to support the collection. Cool attempts to supplement the few genuine cases with a lot of guesses and wishful thinking; for instance, she spends a page detailing a mysterious but not at all supernatural murder, then adds a hopeful twist to the end by writing: "Whether Hazel ever managed to haunt and torment her killer is unknown." Well then, why are you telling us about it?

Still, it is the location, not the writer, at fault here. Cool seems to be doing her very best with limited material, and I look forward to reading her efforts when she tries her hand at a town with a few genuine ghost stories to recount.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 31 August 2002

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