The wonder of Clare McNally

In my blog of my inspirations I detailed the love I have for Clare McNally’s work. Now I would like to use this blog to delve deeper into this love and to highlight one or two of her novels. There are plenty to choose from as I have about eight of her books. Each one is a delight to me. They are novels I could return to time and time again and I have done just that over the years.

As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I believe the first Clare novel I purchased all those many years ago was Ghost House. This proved to be a great introduction to her novels and set me up for what was to follow. And what followed was years and years of great storylines, vivid characters played out on memorable landscapes.

Ghost House tells the story of the Van Buren family who move into a mansion by the sea. It is the former residence of a naval officer who lived there a few centuries before. When the family move in there is some tension already in the air. Gary had discovered his wife Melanie had had an affair. This affair was broken off and Melanie asked to be forgiven but Gary finds this is not such an easy task.

When moving into their new home the couple sleep apart in separate rooms. Then one night Melanie finds some movement next to her in bed. Believing Gary has now forgiven her she embraces him and they make love. Unfortunately it turns out her bedmate had not been her husband at all but the ghost of the former owner of the house. He sees in Melanie his former love, the woman who was taken away from him in brutal fashion.

This then is the start of the horror which ensues. As with all of Clare’s books she begins the novel in a historical setting. She always opens her books with a prologue and ends it with an epilogue. This is a style of working which I subscribe to and three of my novels have been structured in this way. She sets the scene in the historical era, explaining what occurred back in this former time which instigate the ghostly happenings that happen later on in the storyline.

I remember when I came across Ghost House for the first time and reading the blurb at the back of the book. I was immediately struck by the storyline and thought it would be a great read. Circumstances proved me correct in this belief.

I have always liked the way Clare portrays the children who play the leading roles in her fiction. They leap out of the page with their energy. You grow to like them from the first few pages onwards and become quite attached to these youngsters. As the action unfolds and the sinister influence takes on a more ominous tone you worry for them as their lives are placed in peril.

However, in the case of Ghost House it is more the adults who are in danger than the children. More specifically, Gary Van Buren is the one who has to fear the most. The ghost of the sailor who had lived in the house centuries before is angry Gary is there as he is keeping him away from his love. One day he takes his vengeance out on him and attacks him which results in Gary taking a bad fall. He is rendered paralysed as a result.

This acts as a warning that there is real danger to be faced in the Van Buren’s seemingly idyllic new home. Everything is most certainly not sweetness and light. I can recall reading this novel for the first time and being gripped by the ongoing action. I wondered what was going to happen next and remained enthralled by the storyline from first page to last.

Ghost House is just one of several memorable novels Clare has written. She wrote a follow up to it with her sequel Ghost House Revenge. Ghost Light is another of my personal favourites. This is a novel set in the theatre, so by location alone it is far different from Ghost House.

Ghost Light involves a child prodigy who is a star attraction on the stage. She is the darling of everyone who sees her perform. Her name is Bonnie Jackson. Once again, however, all is not all it seems. Underneath the surface there is friction and unrest. As she prepares for a performance one night at the theatre her parents are having a fight. It soon transpires this is not an unusual occurrence. It also turns out Bonnie’s mother has been carrying on an affair with another man for some time.

One night the lights go out in the theatre and Bonnie falls to her death in the orchestra pit. But Bonnie still needs to remain in the limelight. So she returns as a ghost. A theatre has been built on the same ground as the one where Bonnie had performed. The former theatre had burnt to the ground in a mysterious fire.

The owner of the new theatre is Nate Dysart, someone with a lot to prove. He had never seen eye to eye with his exacting father. Nate is introduced to the reader as he prepares for his father’s funeral. He is determined to make a mark for himself in the theatre which is his dream. But at the back of his mind he recalls his Dad’s words to him on the subject. He believed Nate was foolish to hold on to a dream which he felt he would never fulfil. He looks upon Nate as a failure who will never make a success of any venture he sets his mind to.

Armed with this unflattering memory, Nate sets to work at acquiring a theatre where he can build his company. He discovers an empty plot in a prime location and decides this is where to build his theatre.

When he starts recruiting actors for his company he is thrilled to have a leading actor on his books. This is especially so as his father had always admired this actor and told Nate he would never have any chance to work with such an established name, that he was way out of his league. He was glad to prove his father wrong.

However, no sooner had the company settled in to their new theatre and begun rehearsals for the upcoming play when they started experiencing weird phenomena. These were trivial at first but grew in prominence until they realised something was not right in this new theatre. Bonnie had returned in her ghostly guise, seeking revenge for her death.

This, then, is another wonderful novel from Clare. I have read it on many occasions. It is a novel I like returning to. You could say it holds a special place in my heart. But the same could be said for all of the novels I have in my collection by this fine writer. She has been a big influence in my writing life and has shown me how rewarding the world of supernatural fiction can be both as a reader and a writer.

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