Between the Lines: Spooky tales for Halloween

“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” by R. A. Dick
“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” by R. A. Dick

Halloween will materialize Friday night, reminding us of all the scary books and movies that haunt the collective consciousness. Many are horrific in a spine-tingling way – such as the Gothic vampire-centric summer hit “The Quick” by Lauren Owen – and others are plain dumb (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” among them).

Let’s turn to the classic “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” by R.A. Dick, the pseudonym of the late Josephine Aimee Campbell Leslie. It was published in 1945, followed by the 1947 movie starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. The TV series ran from 1968 to 1970. The story is charming and still reverberates: A widow moves into a cottage in an English seaside village and finds it haunted by the ghost of a ribald sea captain. Together, they write his memoir and fall in love, joining each other at the end.

The book was recently reissued by Vintage Books ($15, 174 pages) as part of its new program, “Vintage Movie Classics: Novels That Inspired Great Films.” It joins “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” by Grace Stone, “Cimarron” and “Show Boat” by Edna Ferber, “Back Street” by Fannie Hurst and “Alice Adams” by Booth Tarkington.

“We’re bringing great novels that inspired classic films back into print,” said Vintage publicist David Archer. “Coming next year will be ‘The Bad Seed,’ ‘Drums Along the Mohawk,’ ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘Night of the Hunter.’”

For more information: and

Staying on the scary-books theme, consider these:

▪ Anne Rice’s 1976 landmark “Interview with the Vampire” was the start of her long and lucrative career writing about the undead, fallen angels, witches, mummies, spirits and werewolves. “The Vampire Chronicles” continues with “Prince Lestat,” in which an array of vampires and other supernatural creatures become allies against a mysterious force that threatens them all (Knopf, $29, 480 pages).

▪ Lynn Shepherd’s Victorian-era detective Charles Maddox returns in the literary thriller “The Pierced Heart,” in a case with shades of Count Dracula (Delacorte, $26, 256 pages). Maddox is dispatched to a “remote castle” to handle a small task, but comes face-to-face with the mysterious Baron Von Reisenberg, who is far worse than what he seems.

▪ In “The Killer Next Door” by Alex Marwood, six disparate people with secrets to hide live in a run-down boarding house in London (Penguin, $16, 400 pages). They keep to themselves until a “terrible accident” brings them together in the cause of mutual self-defense. They will soon discover that one of them is a murderer intent on taking more prey.

On the local front

Richard Steele of Sacramento invested 27 years as a Marine, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. During that duty, he was a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam, so he has the cred for his thriller-mystery “The Money Run” (PRSteele, $15, 282 pages), based partly on his own experiences. The time: 1971. Jack Higgins, a vengeance-minded Marine pilot, and his buddies are poised to heist a $20 million military payroll in Okinawa, when Higgins’ unexpected love for a woman could change everything (

Sacramento is rife with fascinating history, much of it forgotten. Reviving a dramatic story is “The Wreck of the Washoe: The Worst Maritime Disaster on the Sacramento River” by former Sacramento Bee reporter Nancy Weaver Teichert (Sacramento Pioneer Association, $8, 43 pages; It recounts the 1864 disaster of the steamer Washoe as it made its way from San Francisco to Sacramento, and the bloody aftermath.

“Chronicles of Old San Francisco” by Gael Chandler offers a quick reference to the city’s history and players in 28 true stories covering 250 years (Chronicles Series, $19, 320 pages): In it, readers will meet Levi Strauss (think blue jeans), Domenico Ghirardelli (think chocolate), the “rock legends” of Haight-Ashbury (think Grateful Dead) and many others. Plus, local landmarks and walking tours of unique neighborhoods.

Author appearances

▪ “The Plume Hunter” by Renee Thompson of Granite Bay was a literary hit when it published in 2012. It’s a well-researched historical novel about the devastating business of pluming – killing birds for their feathers.

In 2010, Thompson wrote “The Bridge at Valentine,” a retelling of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” set in 1890s Idaho. The updated “star-crossed lovers” are July Caldwell, a sheepherder’s daughter, and Rory Morrow, a cattleman’s son. The city of Woodland has named “Valentine” as its choice for Woodland Reads, a one-book program that asks everyone to read and discuss it.

Thompson will speak at a $20-a-person luncheon at 11 a.m. Thursday at Woodland Community College, 2300 E. Gibson Road. At 7 that evening, she will give a presentation at the Woodland Public Library, 250 First St. More information: and

▪  Lake Tahoe-based Todd Borg for “Ghost Boat,” the 12th in his mystery series, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 7-9 at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., (916) 808-529; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 21-23 at the Sacramento Harvest Festival at Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd.

▪  Thatcher Robinson of Carmichael for “Black Karma,” 2 p.m. Nov. 8 at Avid Reader at the Tower, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento, (916) 441-4400; and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at Avid Reader, 617 Second St., Davis, (530) 758-4040. The female protagonist is knife-fighting expert and “people finder” Bai-Jiang, whose father is a “prominent member” of a triad in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Robinson’s debut thriller was “White Ginger.”

▪  Cindy Sample has a fourth entry in her “Dying For...” series starring Placerville amateur sleuth Laurel McKay. The launch party for “Dying for a Dude” (CreateSpace, $15, 284 pages) will be 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 9 at Toby Keith’s Bar & Grill, 440 Palladio Parkway, Folsom; (916) 984-8629. Free entertainment and food. Sample will also appear at 1 p.m. Nov. 22 at Face In a Book, 4359 Town Center Blvd., El Dorado Hills; (916) 941-9401, More at

▪  Joshua Kahn Russell for “A Line in the Tar Sands: Struggles for Environmental Justice,” 7 p.m. Nov. 13 at Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., , Sacramento; (916) 835-4330.

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.


If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to at least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to Questions? Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.