When I received Ghost Radio by Leopoldo Gout in the mail for review, I looked forward to reading a chilling ghost story. The glorious blurb by James Patterson found on the back cover of the book, comparing Ghost Radio to the early work of Stephen King, promised great things. Perhaps this unrealistically high expectation contributed to my later disappointment in what I did read.
The story itself, about a radio talk show host who finds himself occasionally transported into abstract realms of the paranormal, turned out to be a winding tale that lacked a cohesive theme. The reader was baited by the idea that ghosts could use modern technology to cross over and communicate with people in subtle ways. There were also ongoing elusive references to ancient Toltec culture that never seemed to solidify into anything directly essential to the plot. The substories comprised of tales told by the call-in talk show guests, inserted as mini-chapters into the novel, sometimes touched on more interesting concepts than that offered by the primary plot. I found most of these call-in stories quite enjoyable, and could see potential for a few of them to be developed into more lengthy stories with the potential to stand alone.
While he shows promise, the writing found in Ghost Radio lacked structure. The delivery was choppy and bounced back and forth between first-person viewpoints of multiple characters without a smooth transition, introduction or pattern. In a few cases, the reader must continue several paragraphs into a chapter before discovering who is narrating that particular section. I am confident that Gout’s writing technique will be honed in later novels, but this first debut novel proved to be a bit problematic. It could have benefited from an editor with a heavier hand.
The most skillful aspect of the book was the collection of graphic illustrations found at the beginning of each chapter. In many ways, they drew in the reader more effectively and told a more spine-tingling tale than the text that followed. In fact, it was these illustrations that kept me reading and enticed me to turn the page and find out what happened next. Gout’s talent as a graphic novel illustrator is evident in the dark and scintillating images found throughout the book.
It was almost like death, floating aimlessly at night, listening to spectral voices that in turn spoke about specters, indifferent to their own condition.