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The Two Sams: Ghost Stories Hardcover – August 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"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. In "Mr. Dark's Carnival," a history professor's visit to a fabled Halloween funhouse turns eerie when the pranks get personal and push him to an unsettling revelation. The book's best selection, "Dancing Men," is an enigmatic but emotionally resonant tale wherein the horrors of the Holocaust achieve a tangible presence that haunts successive generations descended from a concentration camp survivor. Hirshberg (The Snowman's Children) shows uncommon talent for insinuating the supernatural into scenarios grounded in credible reality and for maintaining ambiguity until the moment of prime emotional impact. This is nowhere more evident than in the poignant title story, in which a man awakens from sleep to fulfill paternal obligations to an apparently needy child. Struck from the mold of classic ghost fiction and filled with emotionally charged symbols and 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Hirshberg says these five are ghost stories, and horror ace Ramsey Campbell, who contributes an introduction, and anthologists Stephen Jones and Ellen Datlow think Hirshberg is the emerging master of the form. But Hirshberg isn't in the mold of ghost-story masters M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, let alone genre droppers-in Henry James and Charles Dickens. His stories instead resemble Peter Straub's ghost tales, concerned more with psychology and history than with things that go bump in the night. If Straub can write rings around Hirshberg, that hardly means the newcomer isn't worth reading. Just don't expect many chills. Instead enjoy the friendship of precocious 12-year-olds in "Struwwelpeter," which very obliquely presages an all-too-natural near-future horror; the discovery of what haunts the northern plains in the modern Halloween tale "Mr. Dark's Carnival"; how the private, unannounced conceit of being haunted assuages a grieving would-be father in the title story; and how other hauntings destroy an old Jew in "Dancing Men" and a wayward surfer in "Shipwreck Beach." Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf; First Edition edition (August 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786712554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786712557
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Glen Hirshberg received his B.A. from Columbia University, where he won the Bennett Cerf Prize, and his M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Montana. His first book, THE SNOWMAN'S CHILDREN, was a Literary Guild Featured Selection, and his second, THE TWO SAMS, was a PUBLISHERS' WEEKLY Best Book of 2003. He has won three International Horror Guild Awards (including two for Outstanding Collection), and his novella, "The Janus Tree," won the inaugural Shirley Jackson Award in 2008. He also has been a Bram Stoker Award finalist and a five-time World Fantasy Award finalist. With Peter Atkins and Dennis Etchison, he co-founded the Rolling Darkness Revue, an annual reading/live music/performance event that tours the West Coast every fall. While teaching at Cal State San Bernardino and at Campbell Hall in Studio City, he developed the CREW Project, through which he trains his advanced students to run intensive creative writing workshops for secondary and elementary schools that have no programs of their own. He lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, son, daughter, and cats.

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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Marianne Fulmont on October 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Don't let the terms "horror" and "ghost" send you running. I'm not big on the generic King-style stories, but I was turned on to checking out THE TWO SAMS after a friend suggested I read it as a challenge. She was right. There is so much more here than meets the eye.
Each story is a thought-provoking literary journey. And the general ideas/plots were realistic enough that I didn't find myself rolling my eyes. My favorite gem was the title story about a man who after losing two unborn children himself, watches after a parentless child - both moving/touching and haunting. And "Dancing Men" brings the holocaust to life as the reader watches it being passed down from generation to generation.
Not only is this one of the best collection of ghost stories I have ever read, but I have to wonder if Glen Hirshberg has created a whole new genre: literary horror. It really stuck with me. I think I'll read them all again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anthony B. Cline on February 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Eugene Ionesco once said that even as a successful dramatist and writer of fiction, he saw himself as a failed poet. Perhaps, many would argue, Ionesco simply was of an old and disappearing sort: men of letters who revere their verse unwaveringly, who hold it up to all other art. I bring up this point because therein is the bold and glowing demarcation between the supernatural fiction of Glen Hirshberg and the type of horror we commonly find in thick, colorful paperbacks for just under ten dollars. His work is not just concerned with aura, it is about aura becoming completely inseparable from plot detail. Stretches of prose in this collection are as beautiful as isolated passages from a Larkin poem. And we could talk about the old literary fixation on sense of place (Hirshberg is one of the best at this…whether in the strange story category or outside it), but even his knowledge of locale is trumped by a most poetic sense of spiritual disruption. The world can host a variety of perspectives, yes. But it is always shrouded in melancholy, and he is not here to help you look the other way.

Struwwelpeter would be a simple haunted house tale if it wasn’t more interested in the way we remember childhood. If it wasn’t illuminating the fine line between precocious youth and budding lunatic. If it didn’t have an almost photographic eye for the lashing rain and marshy grounds of the Pacific Northwest. It would be a haunted house tale if it cared to be, but instead it focuses on a moment in time between four children and their ringleader’s father. It is a story that operates between the lines, whose gestures and words often lead nowhere, provide no clear explanation. These things only become clearer in a terrible finale, which means they were always unknowable.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
The five novellas that make up The Two Sams are billed as ghost stories, but I would describe them more as haunting pieces of fiction, which is not necessarily the same thing. Glen Hirshberg has a wonderful writing style, one that has already earned him many award nominations in his young career. It's a mix of the classic and the modern, a sort of Henry James meets Ramsey Campbell, and in fact Campbell supplies the meritorious introduction to this collection. What you get here is the highest literary form of the dark tale.

There is a great deal of variety between the five long short stories collected here, but they all share a wonderful atmosphere and the underpinnings of well-constructed tales. They are not traditional ghost stories; indeed, they could best be described as psychological horror pieces that remind us once again that the most frightening ghosts are sometimes the ones inside our own heads.

The title story is the shortest and my least favorite of the bunch. It revolves around a father trying to deal with the history of two miscarried pregnancies as his wife's third pregnancy enters its final stages. Who can say what kind of connection a father might have to his children who were not to be? "Dancing Men" seems to garner the most critical acclaim among these stories, but this tale of a boy's very strange rite of passage, one linking the horrors his grandfather suffered in the Holocaust with Native American rituals, didn't evoke the same type of feelings the other stories evoked in me. "Shipwreck Beach" is an interesting story set just off the coast of a Hawaiian island. A young lady has come to see her cousin and friend for the first time since he got out of jail and moved to the islands.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Glen Hirshberg is one of those authors whom I seek out all of his work like a hungry zombie. He is by far one of the most talented authors out there today regardless of genre labels. This is one of his short story collections (2 others I recommend are The Janus Tree and American Morons, both great short story collections) and I would say his best work is collected here. The title story is a heartfelt story of the pain of losing a child and the ghosts that liinger. My two favorites are "Struwwelpter" and "Mr. Darks Carnival". Both are horrifying Halloween time stories and both are very original. Glen Hirshberg always delivers the goods and these stories are a testament to that.
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