David Binder is a young, successful writer living in Chicago and suffering from writer’s block. He stares at the blank page, and the blank page stares back—until inspiration strikes in the form of a ghost story that captivated him as a child.
With his pregnant wife and young daughter in tow, he sets out to explore the myth of Virginia Beale, Faery Queen of the Haunted Dell. But as his investigation takes him deeper and deeper into the legacy of blood and violence that casts its shadow over the old Beale farm, Binder finds himself obsessed with a force that’s as wicked as it is seductive.
A stirring literary rendition of Tennessee’s famed Curse of the Bell Witch, Little Sister Death skillfully toes the line between Southern Gothic and horror, and further cements William Gay’s legacy as not only one of the South’s finest writers, but among the best that American literature has to offer.
Little Sister Death by William Gay was published on 15 October 2015 by Faber and Faber, and is a 'lost' horror novel by the late American writer.
Editorial director at Faber and Faber Angus Cargill bought the UK rights last year.
Cargill said: “On Friday 31st October last year I was sent a manuscript entitled Little Sister, Death - by our late author William Gay - a novel which we did not previously know about the existence of. You only need to read a very few pages of Little Sister, Death to know you’re in the hands of a master, and if it’s one you have the stomach for.
We will publish for Halloween this year to mark what would have been William’s 74th birthday.”
Little Sister, Death takes its inspiration from the 19th century Bell Witch haunting of Tennessee, before the story moves into the late 20th century, where a troubled writer moves to a haunted farmstead. Cargill described it as “a sublime piece of writing - with a terrifying fore-shadow of a first chapter”.
He added: “Beautifully written and structured, it is a loving and faithful addition to the field of classic horror, eschewing any notions of irony or post-modern tricks as it aims, instead, straight for your soul. It is a novel we hope - in the wake of recent successes such as The Babadook and N0S4R2 - to make the horror moment of 2015.”
Conville said: “It was so exciting to be told a lost manuscript by the late master of Southern Gothic William Gay had been discovered among his papers. I read Little Sister, Death in one sitting and found it brilliantly constructed, utterly engrossing and deeply frightening. It is thrilling to think that a new generation of readers can now discover William’s work for themselves.”
Little Sister, Death will be followed by Gay’s final novel, The Lost Country, in late 2016.
I had originally planned to post this on 31 October; Halloween, but I thought that it would be better idea to post now, giving people plenty of time to buy it and read it on the scariest date of the year!
The book opens with a twelve page introduction by Tom Franklin, and that in itself is a really interesting read. I hadn't read anything by William Gay before picking up this book, so it was great to learn a little more about the author from someone who knew him.
The story Little Sister Death is really not very long at all and can easily be read in just a couple of sittings. The opening chapter is set in the year 1785 on a plantation in Tennessee County, USA. This chapter introduces the reader to Gay's wonderful way with words.
A doctor has been kidnapped and taken in the back of a cart to an unknown destination. Once there he is instructed by Old Marster to tend to a young girl in childbirth. The writing is chilling and quite terrifying, the author captures the moment and the gothic feeling so very well.
The majority of the story is set in the 1980s and follows author David Binder and his family as he moves them out to a remote farmstead so that he can find inspiration for that difficult second book. The family find far more than literary inspiration out there, as the story unfolds, the tension increases dramatically to the chilling conclusion.
I don't read a lot of ghost stories, I often find them silly and annoying but Little Sister Death had me gripped the whole way through. The novel is very short and makes no allowances for rambling, the action is full on and dark and disturbing.
The ideal read for Halloween. Small, but perfectly formed.
My thanks to Sophie from Faber and Faber who sent my copy for review.
William Gay was born in Hohenwald, Tennessee. After high school, he joined the United States Navy and served during the Vietnam War. For many years he made his living as a carpenter, drywall-hanger and house painter before publishing, in 1998, his first novel, The Long Home, at the age of 57.
He went on to publish the story collection I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down and two further novels, Provinces of Night and Twilight, in his lifetime.