Cast a Cold Eye

· Sinister Regard Publishers

About this ebook

“A genuinely spooky story that lies somewhere near the place where fantasy, horror, and science fiction meet.” —Harry Turtledove

From Aurora and Sunburst Award nominee Derryl Murphy and Hugo and Nebula Award nominee William Shunn comes a chilling ghost story set in the aftermath of the worst pandemic the world has ever known.

1921. Rural Nebraska. In a region devastated by Spanish flu, where not a single life has gone unscathed by tragedy, 15-year-old Luke Bryant has lost more than most. Orphaned, Luke toils as a farmhand for his strict uncle and aunt, barely recalling a world not gray, deadening, and oppressive. Worse, he can’t so much as visit the graves of his parents without the statues in the cemetery opening their stony eyes and watching his every move.

Enter Annabelle Tupper, itinerant spirit photographer. Half-blinded by the chemicals of her trade, she travels the countryside in pursuit of the ghost of her dead husband. When a local pastor arranges for Annabelle to take on the boy as an apprentice, both find their every belief turned upside-down. For Annabelle, eking out a bare living while trying not to be run out of town as a charlatan, Luke represents a power she can only dream of. But for Luke—reluctant, resentful, and increasingly violent—the older woman stands for every nightmare that haunts his waking hours.

As more and more restless spirits converge on the unblinking eye of Annabelle’s camera, Luke’s only hope for peace will be to confront the most terrifying specters of all—the ones he carries inside.

“An archetypal American myth. . . . Any fantasy of a certain ambition set in the American Midwest in the late 19th through early 20th centuries must reckon with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, book and movie both, and Shunn & Murphy do so squarely. . . . Their depiction of 1921 Nebraska is vivid . . . but the real heart of the novella lies in the relationship between Luke and Annabelle, two strong but damaged characters who share an eerie bond.” —Paul Witcover, Locus Magazine

“Characterization is spot on, with no one who can be considered either evil or a criminal, just ordinary men and woman with all the flaws and virtues that implies. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it without reservation.” —Peter Tennant, Black Static

“The authors know how to tell a story. They have good narrative drive, they deliver strong characterization without a lot of exposition, and the supernatural elements of the story are inventive, building one upon the other. . . . Cast a Cold Eye is one of those stories that work on many levels. I've reread the manuscript a few times since I first received it, and every time I do, I find another layer waiting for me. It's past time for you to discover its treasures for yourself.” —Charles de Lint

“After reading Derryl Murphy and William Shunn’s Cast a Cold Eye, I felt as if I had just awakened from a lucid dream . . . as if I had just experienced their protagonist’s psychic adventure into deepening horror as my own. This is a book constructed with craft, sensitivity, and resounding talent. I have but one caveat: don’t start reading this book if you have other things to do. Murphy and Shunn are plotmeisters. Once you start reading, you won’t stop until you’ve finished the book. And then you’ll need to think about what the hell just happened!” —Jack Dann

Cast a Cold Eye . . . creates a fantasticated interplay between the growth throes of a young man in [1921] Nebraska and L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy.” —John Clute, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

About the author

Derryl Murphy is the author of the Aurora Award-nominated math-as-magic novel Napier's Bones, the collection Over the Darkened Landscape, which made the shortlist for the Sunburst Award, the novella Cast a Cold Eye with William Shunn, and a collection of ecological science fiction, Wasps at the Speed of Sound. He lives with his wife in Saskatoon, and often wonders how he got old enough to have two adult sons.

Since his first publication in 1993, William Shunn's short fiction has appeared in Salon, Storyteller, Bloodstone Review, Newtown Literary, Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, Realms of Fantasy, Electric Velocipede, and various anthologies and year's-best collections. His essays have appeared in On Magazine and Sybil's Garage. His work has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His chapbook An Alternate History of the 21st Century appeared from Spilt Milk Press in 2007, and his novella Cast a Cold Eye, a collaboration with Derryl Murphy, from PS Publishing in 2009. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Utah, he now lives and writes in New York City.

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