Originally released in September of 2017, Ghost Hunter Z is the product of a Halloween spent with a marathon of ghost hunter shows on TV. I thought to myself, How messed up would it be if these guys caught a ligit spirit in a recording? Don’t get me wrong, vague sounds and recorded, barley audible voice are spooky in their own right, but what if it was a full on ghost that appeared right in front of them on camera?
That’s where Z started. I took this idea a bit further and gave my character the ability to see ghosts. And they are everywhere. Sure, it’s been done before. But what makes a story great is more than just the premise. It’s all in the details. Settings, characters, dialogue, a good book has to hit on all cylinders. I felt Z had to be special.
I started with an MC I’d used in a fantasy book years before named Pulp, who was big, frightening and had a horrible way with the opposite sex, but he was incredible in hand-to-hand combat. I made Z the polar opposite. Handsome, charming, great with women, but awful in a fight. Unless, it was a gunfight. Z is an excellent marksman and deftly handles the silver bullet loaded revolvers strapped to his hips. Of course, Z is also a haunted man. Running away from a mysterious past in America and cursed by his gift of site, Z starts a business as a ghost hunter to make ends meet.
Here, I took some inspiration from Ghostbusters and gave Z a set of devices he uses to capture the spirits that haunt people’s homes. Of course, since the story is set in London, 1883, most of these devices are steam-powered and a pinch of steampunk is apparent throughout the trilogy.
Next, I introduce the large and lovable Inspector Charles Grant to partner up with Z, and the stern yet compassionate Judge Thomas Long as a client who gets far more involved than he intended, and pit them against an ancient evil entity who was summoned through a ritualistic murder. The result is a fast paced horror adventure in the form of Ghost Hunter Z, book 1 in the Ghost Hunter Z Trilogy.
Though the original release was pulled after my former publisher dissolved, the re-launch went live July 17th and is available now with a new edit and cover through Poe Boy Publishing.
For Goodreads reviews, look here.
Now, take some time and enjoy this two chapter preview of Ghost Hunter Z
October 12, 1883
Father Time is a harsh bastard.
Benson Algood had worked as a clerk in Judge Long’s office for nearly thirty years and working late was nothing new to him. As a matter of fact, it was a nightly practice now that old Philsby had retired, Father Time taking its toll on him first. Until the judge could find a suitable replacement, Benson would have to pick up the duties of his missing friend and co-worker. Benson didn’t mind though. It was his commitment to his job that had garnered so much of his employer’s trust. To the judge, Benson was much more than a clerk. He was a trusted ally in the fight to clean up the criminal element from London’s streets. The judge had said as much himself on numerous occasions.
Climbing the stairs to the file room wasn’t nearly as easy as it once was. There were many more aches in his body in many more places than there used to be. As much as he hated to admit it he knew his own retirement was fast approaching. He couldn’t imagine life without his work, but Father Time was inescapable. A harsh bastard indeed.
On this night, he found himself alone in the dark offices, again nothing new to Benson. As he moved up the stairs he lit the wall-mounted lamps along the way, adjusting the gaslight to account for his fading eyes. Along the hallway to the file room, he lit the three lamps here as well and pulled the key ring from his pocket.
“Now, where did you go off to?” The search for the right key to the file room was also a nightly ritual. Every night Benson would scold himself for not marking the keys and every night he would forget he was going to mark them. From behind him came the faint sound of footsteps. Benson peered down the dimly lit hallway. “Hello?” he called.
No more than an old man whose failing senses were beginning to get the best of him. He turned back to the file room door and again fiddled with his keys. Suddenly, a man cleared his throat from down the hall where he’d heard the footsteps. Someone else was in the hall with him, but they were beyond the light provided by the wall lamps.
Benson pulled the nearest light from its mounting and walked down the hall with the light held out in front of him. Once he passed the staircase, the darkened portion of the hallway beyond began to come into view. In the weak lamp light, Benson could see the form of a man standing at the end of the hall checking his pocket watch as if waiting for someone to join him.
“Pardon me, sir,” the old clerk called out. “I’m afraid visitors aren’t allowed in the offices after hours. I beg you come back tomorrow and conduct whatever business you have during business hours.”
The man went on waiting as if he’d not heard Benson’s request. Benson walked farther down the hall, but as the lamp light drew closer to the stranger, the stranger faded into nothingness. Suddenly aware of the suffocating silence around him, the old clerk hurried to the end of the hall and shone the light around the corner where a longer hallway continued toward the rear of the building and held more offices.
“I’m working too hard,” Benson reassured himself out loud. “Get a hold of yourself, old man. You’re starting to unravel.”
With that, Benson decided to get back to work. The quicker he finished up the sooner he could get home and sleep. Then perhaps take the day off tomorrow and catch up on some much-needed rest.
Benson looked down the hall toward the file room in time to see the lamps he’d only just lit being extinguished one by one. His heart raced. The small door of the lamp he held creaked open all on its own and the fire blinked out of existence as if invisible fingers pinched out the flame.
The only sounds in the pitch-black hallway were Benson’s quick, shaking breaths and the rapid thump, thump, thump of his heart. He fumbled in his pocket, but he’d used his last match on the lamps. He reached a shaking hand out toward the wall. It wasn’t there. He shuffled to the right until his fingers came into contact with the cold surface of the wall. A small victory. Benson took a moment to catch his breath. He sat the useless lamp on the floor. With both hands on the wall, he felt his way down toward the corner that would eventually reveal the staircase. His mind, for some reason, considered the flakiness of the wall. How old this building was. It was in need of repair in so many places.
Benson was sure the stairwell had to be close. He’d come so far already. But on and on he went, hands sliding down an endless hallway. It wasn’t right. He’d worked here for more than thirty years and he knew without a doubt that the hallway was nowhere near this long. The darkness was stifling. Was it getting hotter? How could that be in mid-October with no lamps to give off heat and no coal burning in the stove below? It was chilly in here only moments ago, but now the heat grew stronger. So too did the stench of… rotten meat?
Then his hands were off the wall and touching something else. Something moist and sticky. Benson was sure he’d found the source of the rotten meat smell. His hands moved up over exposed muscle and tissue.
A strange hollow feeling invaded his brain.
Fear lumped in his stomach, threatening to send its contents up his throat and out of his mouth in a spray of lumpy liquid.
No matter how much he wanted to rip his shaking hands away from the thing, he could not. Instead, his fingers moved up over exposed teeth where lips used to be and ridged bone where a nose once sat. Then the thing moved its jaw to speak and Benson smelled decay mingled in a morbid dance with long-dead leaves, ancient mud, and tainted blood. And when this creature spoke, this being from another realm, where all that’s good and pure is no more than a vague memory for the tormented souls that reside there, his voice gurgled with the rot of putrid, liquefied organs. He spoke one word and one word only: “Asmodeus!” The word drove a spike of fear into Benson’s brain. Madness overcame him.
“Sir, if’n ya don’t mind me askin’, where’re we goin’?”
Z turned to the diminutive man he had grown to call friend over the years and regarded him seriously. Reginald Cunningham Boulderstern the Third had a name that sounded like he was born into a family that had been very well off, and perhaps at some point they were, but Z had found him living on the streets, stealing food to get by and heading down a path that would have surely delivered him to the gallows.
“There’s a little cottage on the outskirts of town,” Z replied. “The family that lives there is having a little trouble with a poltergeist. We’re going to rid them of their problem. For a small fee, of course.”
“Of course. Will we be needin’ the ecto-extractor?”
“It’s a good possibility.”
The little man hefted a large rifle that Z had customized himself and named the ecto-extractor, and carefully took it outside to stack in the back of the carriage. “Anythin’ else?”
“Better grab a few specter cases as well.”
“And the revolvers? Will they need cleanin’? Re-loadin’ with fresh silver?”
“The guns are all set, but let’s bring two extra boxes of silver just in case. There are stories abound of werewolves and other creatures in the area we’ll be stalking.”
“Relax, one rarely runs into a werewolf. Besides, the next full moon is nearly a week out. Hopefully we’ll be back by then.”
“Where did you get off to last night anyway? You behaved yourself I hope.”
“Just some drinks with a lady.”
“Really? Good for you.”
As Z fastened his revolvers across his hips he stepped outside and walked around to the other end of the carriage only to be met by Mr. Nelly, his landlord and biggest detractor. Z grumbled under his breath and went about his preparations to depart while trying to ignore the pompous ass at his side.
“Mr. Z, I feel it my duty to remind you that you are two months behind on rent,” Mr. Nelly said, the disgust in his voice was palpable. “I don’t know how it works in America, but this isn’t your Wild West. In London, if you do not pay for your business and living quarters you are evicted.”
Z sighed heavily. “I am well aware of the situation, Mr. Nelly, especially since you feel the need to remind me every day. As it happens, my assistant and I are on our way to a job right now and I promise you, we will have your money and then some upon our return.”
“Then by all means, carry on.” The landlord walked away, leaving Z with the building urge to just strangle him and get it over with. Nelly called back over his shoulder. “By the way, all of the equipment you’ve brought into the building seems dangerous and possibly volatile. I shall have to raise your rent to cover any possible damages.”
Z said nothing, though he could see the sneer curling the corner of the landlord’s lips. he chose to give the wagon a good punch instead. Above him, Reg seated himself on the bench and lifted the reins in his gloved hands.
“All ready, sir?”
Z took a moment to consider whether he’d forgotten anything. Satisfied he hadn’t, he climbed into the carriage and rapped his knuckles on the roof. The horses pulled away, giving the carriage a jerk as they started off. He came to London four years ago with visions of riches swimming in his head. A man with his particular talents and inventiveness accomplished little in America, but the history of hauntings in England was a rich one, filled with tales that he felt may carry at least some kernel of truth. The land was rife with spirits. The difficult part thus far had been getting his name out there, and though it had taken longer than he’d anticipated, there were a growing number of jobs coming his way. His ship was going to come in soon, he just knew it.
It would be an easy job, he was sure. A country cottage was ideal for this trip. It would be nice to get away for a few days from London’s grimy surfaces and unbearable stench and the constant whirring sound of Scotland Yard’s blimps patrolling overhead. As the carriage rocked along the cobblestone streets, Z let his mind drift back to the place it so often did. New York, a woman’s scream, a specter’s shrieks.
He jolted in his seat and pulled the curtain away from the window. London’s old buildings greeted him with their sooty blackness and unforgiving bulk. Yet even now, with his disdain for the city and near failure in his endeavors, he had no wish to return to the States and the horrors that awaited him there. He missed nothing. Not really. Except, perhaps, the affection of a certain girl.
Z let these thoughts drift from his mind like balloons from a child’s hand. Pulling his Stetson off, he rested his head on the back of the cushioned seat then placed the hat over his eyes. Within seconds he was asleep.