“I was indeed a ghost, yet it appears I am flesh.”
Australian author A.S. Bailey was born in Bristol, England and designed leather bound covers for a Fine Hand Bookbinder. She now lives in Australia on the South Coast of NSW and has turned to writing – THE GHOST OF ZEBEDIAH TUTTLE is her debut publication.
Bailey understands that happy mixture of fantasy and humor and has constructed a novel that is a pleasure from beginning to end. We know we are in for an infectious tale with the opening paragraphs - ‘“Ooooh,” chorused the group of stargazers as the silvery moon swirled into a pulsating blood-orange orb. “A Total Lunar Eclipse right outside our doorstep! Fred, aren’t we lucky?” Norman peered into his telescope. “I didn’t expect to see one so picture-perfect. This one is magical — it’s right up there with the best. And we’ve seen some magnificent eclipses when we lived in Australia.” Fred was standing behind the huddle of stargazers in the front garden of number seven Elm Tree Lane, looking bored. But before he could eject ‘Whatever’ out of his disgruntled mouth, an unfamiliar voice burst from his lips: “I am over the moon you made such a far-flung journey, for this is indeed a fortuitous outcome. When I swooned from the extraordinary vigour of the moon’s gravitational pull, I could not have foreseen I would find myself here.” His father’s bespectacled eyes twinkled with amusement. Fred’s eyes widened with panic. Someone had stolen his voice. He tried speaking, but only a rasping gasp scratched the back of his throat. I need to gargle. Mum swore by a glass of salty water to remove a frog in the throat. Fred wished his thoughts had not wandered back to his mother. Now he remembered the nasogastric tube, which had taken the place of a frog in her throat.’
All aspects of the tone of the book are there, we in retrospect discover, and as the plot is summarized we read – ‘Fred’s doctor calls him stupid. The school counselor thinks Fred is crazy. And the boys in Fred’s class call him The Mad Hatter . . . The mind-blowing truth is the ghost of Zebediah Tuttle is stuck-fast in Fred’s head. But to separate, they must find the magnetic portal opened by a Total Solar Eclipse, and master the jaw-dropping bungee trapeze while holding a cat. But Fred doubts the sanity of the ghost’s harebrained plan, believing the ghost squatting inside his head is a nutter. And who could blame him? Fred wakes with scouring powder in his hair, and a fabric patch stuck with Super Glue on his cheek. The other morning, he woke while eating a mothball. Avoiding questions and still mourning the loss of his mother, Fred prefers his own company, and so the ghost of Zebediah Tuttle is an unwelcome intrusion. Fred is desperate to rid his mind of the ghost’s incessant chatter. He is even more desperate to separate himself from the ghost’s natural inclination to find trouble. The consequence of sharing one body and one mouth is a ride like no other. And the ghost’s art of persuasion pulls Fred headlong back into life, filling it with laughter and unlikely friendships. “Young Fred, never look at anything in the same way again! Life is not straight. ’Tis a glorious mixture of sideward, rearward, downward, forward and magnificently upward.” A story for all ages. A fun alternative to the ghosts from your nightmares.’
Welcome to the literary world, A.S. Bailey. You have already charmed us.
Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.