"Tales From Two-Bit Street and Beyond ... Part II" is another collection of ghostly short stories that mix spooky chills with the colorful history of Ogden's Historic 25th Street. A disclaimer: I have a story in this anthology, titled "Yehudi," and that's all I'll mention of it.
Last year "Tales from Two-Bit Street and Beyond ...," published by TalesBookProductions, sold about 4,500 copies, a healthy size for a regional publisher. Publisher Drienie Hattingh was always planning a second anthology of short stories.
One of the stories I particularly enjoyed was "A Recipe for Reclamation," Dimitria Van Leeuwen. A young woman returns to Ogden years after a tragedy claimed the life of her sister. She buys a beautiful home with -- she soons learns -- with a brooding, malicious past. To combat an unhappy, malicious spirit in her new home, she utilizes her talent for baking, meets a supportive new friend, and most importantly, the peaceful spirit of her dead sister.
Most of the tales in "... Two-Bit Tales ... Part II" are ultimately optimistic, with the supernatural a spooky, yet calming force. There are a couple of exceptions. As mentioned, 25th Street has a colorful history, and "Charlie Chan and the Ben Lomond Ghost," by Michael Bourn, hearkens back generations to times when racist codes kept residents separated. In the story, a dying soldier hires a Chinese-American private eye to find the girl of his dreams before he dies. Of course, the irony is that his dream girl may have died long ago.
Another tale with strong historical roots is Lynda West Scott's "Shave and Haircut -- Two Bits," in which a very old man discovers a barber shop on 25th Street with an employee who works unusual hours. Also, the shave and haircut is unusually inexpensive, far lower than today's norm. As West Scott explains at the end, "the barber subject for this story is Myron Fuller, who owned a barber shop on Two-Bit Street before his death in 1921.
"The Last Dance," by publisher Hattingh, is a story that maintains that love can be found among the dead. A young woman, slowly dying of cancer, struggles to maintain a normal life. Heading for the Browning Theatre for a night of dancing, she narrowly avoids an automobile wreck. Or, did she avoid the wreck? That night, she dances and falls in love with a young man with his own unique, ghostly history.
"The Dare,' by Ogden writer Vicki Droogsma, is a darker tale about a skeptical younger man who turns would-be ghost hunter, accepting a dare to walk down 25th Street in the middle of the night. For his efforts he meets a sexy ghost/prostitute, who gets really angry when our hero decides he wants to back out of the arrangement.
Indeed, the stories can be, to use an old-fashioned term, racy. In one story that features an alluring dark spirit, an overly hormonal young man lured into heat by a sexy spirit has what might be described as a "trouser malfunction." For the record, his passion soon turns to terror.
There are 13 stories in the anthology. The introduction is provided by Stan Trollop, an award-winning author from South Africa. Each story is accompanied by art, and often there are snippets from past Standard-Examiner articles.
Editor's note: A shorter version of this column was published on Nothing Standard blogs.