Welcome to the Release Day Celebration for
McGrave's Hotel by Steve Bryant
presented by Tantrum Books!
Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!
Happy Book Birthday, Steve!
It’s 1936, and nearly twelve-year-old JAMES ELLIOTT is a bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, there a year since the night his parents died while on a spy mission into Nazi Germany.JAMES craves a goodbye message from his parents, but is distracted by troublesome guests who require his help.Assistance with locating a missing and priceless mummy, wrangling mutant spiders, and attaching the head of a bridegroom is just the kind of hospitality guests have come to expect while at McGrave’s hotel where guests are dying to check in.But over the course of one frightful evening, James will team with Death’s daughter to fight Nazi sympathizers, monsters, and the undead in this riveting, deathly, historical adventure story unlike any you’ve read before.
McGrave’s Hotel by Steve Bryant Publication Date: October 11, 2016 Publisher: Tantrum Books
Mr. Nash passed out the assignments and sent most of the boys to their stations. James lingered behind a bit, as he often did.
“Sorry, Jim, boy, no one has asked for you today.”
James appreciated that every staff member knew he was longing for a message from his parents. James knew full well that they were dead, of course, but he hoped they had left a message behind. It must have gone astray.
Tonight, however, something was amiss. James didn’t like the look on Mr. Nash’s face. Mr. Nash’s eyes twitched, his neck muscles looked tense, and tiny beads of sweat collected on his temples. This was unusual, as Mr. Nash was always in command at McGrave’s.
“Is everything all right?” James said. “You look worried, sir.”
“Do I? Sorry, most unprofessional. Unbecoming for an Oxford man. I shall try to better conceal my feelings. It’s that, ah, we’ve had a call. We could be receiving a special guest later this evening. A VIP, to be sure.”
VIPs at McGrave’s were tricky. As at most hotels, they expected the best suites, tiptop service, and world-class flattery. Unlike what was expected at most hotels, some of their requests bordered on the extreme. A bellhop didn’t mind being a late-night servant, but he didn’t want to be a late-night snack.
“Oh, ah, never you mind, Jim. Never you mind. He is often expected in many places, so he may not turn up at all. No point in worrying you by mentioning his name. Now, off you go, lad. We’ve plenty of our usual run of guests to entertain us. We’re still awaiting a Broadway celebrity, a contingent of foreigners, and a pair of newlyweds. As always, make old Mr. McGrave proud. I know you will.”
The Grand Lobby soared four stories from the marble lobby floor to the frescoed ceiling with its paintings of brooding storm clouds. Its most prominent feature was the gigantic framed painting of Thaddeus McGrave himself. Standing hands on hips, Mr. McGrave glared down at his patrons and staff, and all who looked up at the painting would swear the eyes followed them as they moved about. It was said that, by the middle of the nineteenth century, Thaddeus McGrave owned half the cemeteries and a third of the funeral homes in the Northeast. He had learned early on that there was money to be made from death, and it therefore came as no surprise that he would erect a hotel that was bedfellows with death.
As James studied the painting, he guessed that not all was well with Thaddeus McGrave. From his vantage point in his gilded frame, opposite the grand clock that ticked off the hours in giant golden Roman numerals, Mr. McGrave no doubt did not like what he was seeing and hearing. The talk of an overseas war weighed on everyone’s mood. According to Mr. Nash, Mr. McGrave always felt that death in moderation was a bit of a good thing. It gave a place an edge, a subtext, something to discuss over an evening’s glass of wine, or a reason to keep one eye open during a night’s stay at a chancy hotel. Mr. Nash pointed to the eighteen-foot-tall Christmas tree in the lobby, with glass ornaments shaped like grinning human skulls, as quite the right touch. On the other hand, James realized, death on the scale of war took the fun out of it. It rankled the staff. As James well knew, Chef Anatole, the hotel’s celebrated master cook, couldn’t bear the thought of foreign boots tramping into his beloved Paris, and it showed in his recently uninspired dishes. Maurice, the night waiter, hailed from Austria and didn’t mind if you were displeased with your filet mignon or a little light on your tip, but he gave customers the stink eye if they were German. Mr. Nash worried about bombs falling on his old college in England, and that in turn worried Miss Charles to see him so distracted. As to Miss Charles herself, her fingers were getting chafed from constantly shuffling and re-dealing her tarot cards, but it was to no avail. The cards simply refused to say anything good about Europe. Far above, according to staff whispers, even the gargoyles were getting more fidgety than usual.
James’s own thoughts on Germany were far from indifferent. When the man from the government came to confirm what James already knew, that his parents were dead, the man explained:
“It was all about German war plans,” he said. “In March, they started rebuilding their air force at an alarming rate. Incredible numbers. They will need pilots for all those planes, and your parents stumbled onto a special school where young boys are being trained. Your parents tried to get photographs of the school, but we don’t know what happened after that. Their radio broadcast was interrupted.
“They were posing as tourists, and it should have been easy for them to get in and out. In the end, we think they were betrayed. The innkeeper where they stayed worked for the Nazis. I’m sorry, James. We are all truly sorry.”
Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction, and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
Top Ten Spooky Books (excluding my own)
The Graveyard Book. (Neil Gaiman) A masterful takeoff on The Jungle Book in which a little boy is raised by ghosts in a cemetery. I so wish I had had this idea first and had tried to write it. No contest with Mr. Gaiman here, but it would have been fun. Best of the bunch.
From the Dust Returned. (Ray Bradbury) The novel that grew from Bradbury’s short story “Homecoming.” Sort of The Addams Family meets Ray Bradbury.
The October Country. (Ray Bradbury) The collection of short stories that contains “Homecoming,” “Uncle Einar,” and others.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. (Ransom Riggs) And its sequels, Hollow City and Library of Souls. I enjoyed the third book best.
The Hothouse by the East River. (Muriel Spark) That it is on this list is a bit of a spoiler. Something spooky is going on in this book.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies. (Edward Gorey) The book-length poem re the deaths of 26 children, alphabetically.
“Little Orphant Annie.” (James Whitcomb Riley) True, it’s only a poem, but a huge part of my spooky literary upbringing. My mom used to scare the heck out of me with her rendition.
Bellefleur. (Joyce Carol Oates) A sweeping gothic tale with a large pet spider.
The Vampire Lestat. (Anne Rice) My favorite of Ms. Rice’s vampire stories.
The Haunting of Hill House. (Shirley Jackson) One of the great haunted house stories. I first came to it via the 1963 movie.
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