In this deeply unsettling collection, Glen Hirshberg’s remarkable ability to evoke the quiet terrors of everyday living renders the supernatural eerily natural. At once thrilling and moving, these four novellas and one story about people and the memories-and monsters-that haunt them cast a mesmerizing spell. Together, they represent a refreshingly human take on the age-old literary tradition of the ghost story.
The title story finds a husband struggling with the grief and confusion of losing two unborn children by forming an odd bond with the infant spectrals that visit him in the night. “Dancing Men” depicts one of the creepiest rites of passage in recent memory when a boy visits his reclusive and possibly deranged grandfather in the New Mexico desert. In “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” a lonely college professor is lured to a mysterious haunted house steeped in the folklore of grisly badlands justice. “Struwwelpeter” introduces us to a brilliant, treacherous adolescent whose violent tendencies and reckless mischief reach a sinister pinnacle as Halloween descends on a rundown, Pacific Northwest fishing village. And in “Shipwreck Beach,” a guilty and tormented young man and his favorite cousin confront their demons in the treacherous surf off the Hawaiian island of Lanai.
Introducing this collection, celebrated British horror writer Ramsey Campbell writes of Glen Hirshberg, “I’ll stake my reputation that history will hail him as a crucial contributor to the field.” Richly atmospheric, soulful, and scary, these stories will linger with readers long after they have finished reading.
Praise for The Two Sams:
“In THE TWO SAMS the greatly gifted Glen Hirshberg does a magnificent job of redefining and updating the ghost story in his own smart, subtle, insightful way. Here is a writer to watch and to treasure.”
“He is the author of stories that are as unsettling as they are scary, as disturbing as they are profound…Literary, chilling, the next big thing.”
—Robert Masello in the Los Angeles Times
“Here’s a collection of horror stories that should curdle your latte.”
“Veteran horror writer Ramsey Campbell…makes the case that Hirshberg will prove to be a crucial contributor to the field. Based on these handful of stories, it’s not an unreasonable claim…Hirshberg takes an assured, literary approach to the material, and he is uninterested in the bloody shock effects employed by some of his peers. That’s not to say, however, that some of these stories aren’t very scary. The horrors revealed in THE TWO SAMS are the subtle kind, those that sting harder in the memory than they might in the first reading.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Hirshberg’s stories are steeped in melancholy and loss, but none more than the title story, ‘The Two Sams.’ The unbearable ache of a childless couple becomes a song of bottomless sadness. It’s a difficult story, and I’m not sure I caught everything Hirshberg was throwing, but I can’t bring myself to read it again. In horror literature, I suppose that’s a compliment.
Hirshberg’s only novel to date, ‘The Snowman’s Children,’ showed flashes of the greatness that is predicted for him. This collection shows the same. He is original and has real talent, and I truly fear that one of these days he’s going to put it all together.”
—San Jose Mercury News
“I can’t tell you much about Glen Hirshberg, despite his ‘multiple World Fantasy Awards and International Horror Guild nominations’. I can tell you that from what I’ve read of this collection of five novellas about terror and its wellsprings within us all, that he appears to be every bit as good as the numerous glowing quotes on the jacket promise. That he weaves a spell out of mood and place and creates an atmosphere of tremendous tension, then when you’re almost ready to let out a long sigh?he springs and turns the tables and lets out the terror. He’s good, he is. Very, very good.”
“Hirshberg?s storytelling recalls the likes of Peter Straub, and his ability to entwine reality with abnormality allows the collection to succeed in a powerful way. It shows that our ghosts are internal?that they manifest themselves in our emotions and experiences?and they are inescapable unless we face them.”
—Necroscopy: The Review of Horror Fiction
“‘We go where our ghosts lead us.’ So says the narrator of a story in Hirshberg’s luminous new collection of weird tales in which ghosts assume the shape of unaddressed emotional needs and denied fears, and the avenues characters follow them down end in haunting self-discovery…Hirshberg shows uncommon talent for insinuating the supernatural into scenarios grounded in credible reality and for maintaining ambiguity until the moment of prime emotional impact…Struck from the mode of classic ghost fiction and filled with emotionally charged set pieces, these exceptional and accomplished stories will put readers in mind of the electrifying short fiction of Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell, and other writers who represent the best of modern literary weird fiction. A laudatory introduction by Ramsey Campbell and a blurb by Stephen Jones will help alert readers to this rising star.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A professor discovers the horrible truth behind a local legend in “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” one of five novella-length tales that showcase Hirshberg’s (The Snowman’s Children) subtle talent for creating horror out of the ordinary lives of everyday people. From the poignant sadness of the title story to the stark inevitability of a young man’s journey into darkness (“Struwwelpeter”), the stories in this volume exhibit a keen understanding of the elements of terror. Literate, thoughtful, and affecting, this collection, which includes an introduction by horror master Ramsey Campbell, belongs in most libraries’ short story or horror collections.”
“A collection of five stories from an original, haunting, literate voice. His impressive first novel, The Snowman’s Children was a highlight of 2002. Hirshberg has a knack for the truly unsettling tale, the kind that draws us closer and closer to the picture where we discover the image before us is really a mirror. This is certainly one of the most remarkable debut collections in memory.”
“Hirshberg?s prose is clear, cadenced, and wonderfully evocative, and never strikes a false or imprecise note. He has the true novelist?s feeling for character and place, and his stories combine the mundane and the extraordinary in fresh, unpredictable ways. The result is a resonant, moving collection by a genuinely exciting new voice. On the evidence of his first two books, Glen Hirshberg seems able to do almost anything. It will be interesting — and instructive — to see where he goes from here.”
“I am a great reader of short fiction, and I feel that Glen Hirshberg’s ghost stories are among the finest tales published over the past decade.”
—Jack Cady, author of The American Writer
“With The Two Sams, Glen Hirshberg joins the ranks of the very best supernatural writers — Robert Aickman, Robertson Davies, Jocye Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell — people whose work acts as a dark mirror in which the shadowy figures that so terrify us are reflections of our children, parents, lovers, teachers — and most frightening of all, ourselves. The Two Sams is superb.”
—Elizabeth Hand, author of Waking The Moon
“The Two Sams is indeed a book to treasure: a collection of haunting and satisfying stories wrapped in the elegant prose of a master craftsman.”
—Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times best-selling author of Ghost Riders
“Glen Hirshberg is the next Big Thing in horror fiction–these beautifully crafted stories pack an emotional jolt that will leave the reader literally breathless with fear.”
—Stephen Jones, editor of Best New Horror