A debut horror novel explores one man’s spooky relationship with an actress from a bygone era.
Nathan begins this story on a moonlit night in New York City. Jade Weary is a present-day, New York City-based editor with an obsession. That fixation comes in the form of a silent film star named Joan Cassidy. Joan was renowned for her beauty in her day as well as a troublesome personal life. In modern times, she is largely forgotten. Although not by Jade, who collects every bit of Joan memorabilia he can find and even has her image constantly playing on a projector screen. But the result is not a simple infatuation. It is apparent early on in the narrative that this simulacrum of Joan has a life of its own. But so does Jade. At a local diner, he strikes up a relationship with a budding young writer named Rain. Jade the editor and Rain the writer could make quite the couple. But as luck would have it, the ghostly Joan is not keen on Jade pursuing other women. Whatever shall become of this strangest of love triangles? The answer unfolds in a great number of odd developments. From a detailed account of a handyman with a penchant for cigars to a flashback to Joan’s life in Hollywood, the story takes a number of sharp turns. Even minor details in the text, which is written in the form of a screenplay, allow for flights of fancy. Take, for instance, Jade’s boss who chooses to show his feelings with a chart of emojis. Though the tale is fluid, it is not without its dead ends. Footsteps are bluntly described as “spine-chilling,” and a young street tough with a “unique eye patch” is far duller than his costume would suggest. It is unclear at times whether readers should be afraid, amused, or simply perplexed. What is to be made of it all? Yet the world Nathan has constructed is original, even if it can be difficult at times to follow. While Jade’s relationship with a silver screen star is not The Purple Rose of Cairo, it winds up being, doggedly enough, something far, far stranger.
An inventive, if unsteady, tale of misplaced affection.