The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs

The Figure in the Shadows (book 2 of the Lewis Barnavelt series), John Bellairs, 1975

My favorite quote: “The figure walked forward, out of the lamplight. Now it was standing before Lewis. Lewis smelled something. He smelled cold ashes. Cold, wet ashes.”

Notable characters: Lewis Barnavelt, an orphan; Rose Rita, his friend; Jonathan, his uncle, a warlock; Florence Zimmerman, a witch

Most memorable scene: The figure stepping out of the shadows, of course. It haunted me (deliciously) for years

Greatest strengths: Characters

Standout achievements: For me, it’s the way it stuck with me. When I was in my 20s and 30s I decided to go back and re-buy all of the childhood books I’d loved and lost over the years. This wasn’t easy because I couldn’t remember titles or authors — just snippets of the stories. This one was one of the hardest to locate. I worked my ass off to find it — but finally, a few years ago, I did, and I love it as much now as I did then 

Fun Facts: I read this every October

Other media: N/A, though the first in this series, The House with a Clock in its Walls, was made into a movie in 2018 

What it taught me: The power of the macabre

How it inspired me: Having read this book at a tender age, I’m sure it left an indelible impression on my young writer’s mind. The imagery never left me — hooded figures, spooky sounds, and shifting fog — the kinds of things that show up frequently in my own work. I’m sure a lot of that can be traced back to this book

Additional thoughts: Growing up in the 80s and 90s there were cruel names for boys who didn’t like to do boy-like things and made friends more easily with girls than members of their own sex. Being a boy who liked books over baseballs, I naturally bonded more quickly with girls, and for this, I paid a high price among my penis-weilding peers. But this book gave me hope. Not only is Lewis’ best friend a girl, but his uncle Jonathan’s best friend is a woman — their neighbor, Florence. I read this and for the first time, I saw a world I could comfortably inhabit. And that, my friends, is the power of books 

Haunt me:

Published by Alistair Cross

Alistair Cross grew up on horror novels and scary movies, and by the age of eight, began writing his own stories. First published in 2012, he has since co-authored The Cliffhouse Haunting and Mother with Tamara Thorne and is working on several other projects. His debut solo novel, The Crimson Corset, was an Amazon bestseller. The Black Wasp, book 3 in The Vampires of Crimson Cove series is on its way. Find out more about him at: ********************************************************************************************* In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are currently writing several novels, including the next volume in the continuing gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Together, they hosted the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which featured such guests as Anne Rice of The Vampire Chronicles, Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of Hellraiser 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, Kim Harrison of the Hollows series, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore. ********************************************************************************************** Currently, Thorne & Cross are hosts of Thorne & Cross: Carnival Macabre, where listeners can discover all manner of demented delights, unearth terrifying treasures, and explore the dark side of the arts.

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