Anyway, I just realized that I have no John Harwood posts and seeing as how I would love to read anything along the lines of his two books right now (yep, am in the mood for modern gothic) it must be time to write one, right?
John Harwood is an Australian author who's amazing debut, Ghost Writer, first hit shelves back in 2004. Since I was still working at the bookstore when this one came out, I do very specifically remember it on the shelves. For one, it had a great cover, for another, the title was similar to another book that I remember looking at ages ago, so it stood out for me in that strange brain connection way. Another reason it stood out, and this is much more of a weird thing that I don't think many people notice, but Ghost Writer was shelved in close proximity to Lev Grossman's Codex and they were both published by Houghton Mifflin and seeing as how both books were catching my eye at the same time, this was a connection that was not lost on me. I know, odd in the least, but that's just me. Don't know why I felt the need to point that out, but...
Anyway, Ghost Writer was one of the first books that I read that I tagged as being "modern gothic." Genre labels, in my mind, are really only good for one thing, and that's helping you find the right book for the right mood. I'm a mood reader, as are plenty of others, and as a bookseller connections were important in terms of being able to make recommendations. For example, if you were to come to me and say that you really enjoyed book Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, then I might steer you towards Ghost Writer. You see?
The whole time I was reading this book, I was completely blown away by it. I thought it was absolutely brilliant and I wanted more! Are you curious yet? Here's more on Ghost Writer (again from my review written for Bookbitch.com):
At thirteen, Gerard discovers a key that unlocks a drawer in his mother’s bedroom. In the drawer, he discovers three things: a book, an envelope containing a sheaf of typewritten pages, and a photograph of a young woman. His mother’s fury at discovering her son stooped over these items is terrifying. Later, in an attempt to discover more about the photo and the reason that these items are kept under lock and key, Gerard tried to get his mother to reveal more about her childhood in England. She had always been more than happy to tell Gerard about her childhood at Staplefield, her grandmother Viola and her best friend Rosalind. After discovering Gerard snooping though, she refuses to speak of England again. That same year, through a school pen-pal program, Gerard meets Alice, a girl his own age, living in England, who was orphaned and crippled in an accident. A later search of his mother’s room reveals that all items, save the book, have since been moved. The book contains a Victorian ghost story penned by a V. H. As an adult, Gerard finally takes a trip to England to meet Alice and discover more about his family’s history. Alice refuses to meet him and his attempts to find both her and Staplefield are futile. Gerard tries again, after his mother’s death and he discovers that his mother may have been hiding a shocking and dangerous secret. The novel itself contains multiple creepy ghost stories all providing clues about Gerard’s mother and her hidden past.
Like most readers who find something great, as soon as I finished Ghost Writer, I hoped that there was more from Harwood that I could sink my teeth into, but sadly there wasn't. He has, since that time, released a second book, The Seance, a Victorian ghost story. Of course it was fabulous, and now I'm waiting for another. No news on new projects, but I can guarantee you that I'll be first in line when there is a new one.
Readers who liked Diane Setterfield's Thirteenth Tale will love John Harwood.