Thursday, July 12, 2007

Richard Taylor's "The Haunting of Cambria"

Richard Taylor is or has been a "U.S. Army military intelligence analyst; Vietnam vet; screenwriter; short story writer; Hollywood studio historian; corporate in-house magazine publisher and editor-in-chief; Chief of Security of Warner Hollywood Studios for nearly 15 years" -- and the author of The Haunting of Cambria, to which he applied the "Page 99 Test" and reported the following:
In The Haunting of Cambria, Theo Parker has suffered a devastating loss, the death of his bride in a car accident the day of their marriage and purchase of a bed and breakfast. When he is released after a six-week coma and months of rehab, he has nowhere else to go but the B&B, where he meets dowdy Eleanor Glacy, the property manager. They experience what may only be described as a haunting. Is it Theo's dead wife, Lily's ghost? Or is there something far more ominous at work? As Theo and Eleanor drift toward a relationship, he attends her brother's wedding where he purposely refutes the family belief that Eleanor is a lesbian. ("Don't ask!" Eleanor says, but of course Theo must.) This brings us to Page 99, where Eleanor and Theo make good their escape from the rehearsal dinner only to be waylaid by Eleanor's mother, whose ecstatic response to her daughter being "normal" embarrasses and angers retiring Eleanor even more.

Does this page epitomize the book? Well, the humor does, I suppose, and the fact that hidden things are eventually revealed, a subtext of the novel. But, generally, no. The Haunting of Cambria begins as a haunted house tale and then takes a turn toward something entirely new and horrifying. With some humor and, as Sullivan of Sullivan's Travels would say, "... a little sex."

The following is Page 99 of The Haunting of Cambria:

When we were in Eleanor’s pickup, she backed up over the parking bumper that held the trash dumpster in place, slammed the gearshift into drive and squealed out of the parking lot. “I take it,” she said, “you don’t want to sleep with half a dozen men in my father’s den?” she asked.

“How do you mean that?” I asked.

“I told them we would be more comfortable in a motel, which you’re paying for,” she replied. “I told them—“

But suddenly there was Ella, standing in front of the pickup and beside their family car. Eleanor stopped, and I rolled the passenger window down. “Don’t forget your fitting,” she told Eleanor. “It’s at nine.”

“I’ll be there,” Eleanor said. “Roll the window up, Theo.”

“Theo?” Ella asked.

“Parker’s his last name. His real first name is Theo.”

“Actually, I prefer Parker,” I said.

“Theo! That’s a darling name!” Ella exclaimed (really, exclaimed).

“Roll the window up, Theo,” Eleanor said. “We’re going now.”

I rolled the window up. Eleanor put the truck in gear.

“You didn’t have to get nasty,” I said.

Eleanor looked at me for an instant with an expression that said, You are at this moment the most vile human being on the face of the earth.

I paid for two motel rooms with an adjoining door. Eleanor’s side was locked. I knocked but gave up after awhile, turned on the TV and raided the honor bar for Toblerone chocolate and some pretzels. She came in around ten-thirty and sat on my bed. She was wearing her nightgown now, short, filmy, flippy-floppy, she didn’t care — it was as if I had become one of her gay friends, had she actually made any male gay friends.

“Give me chocolate,” she ordered and I tossed what remained of the Toblerone at her.

“Look at it this way,” I said. “Your parents don’t think you’re gay anymore. You’re not gay, so that’s a good thing, right?”
Visit Richard Taylor's website and read an excerpt from The Haunting of Cambria.

--Marshal Zeringue