word craft


Story Behind the Story #37: Midnight Magic

Midnight MagicSome­times writ­ers write just for the fun of it. Mid­night Mag­ic is me hav­ing fun with the idea of a ghost sto­ry. I had been read­ing some ghost sto­ries, (I don’t recall which) and thought I’d play with some of the clas­sic ghost sto­ry notions: A haunt­ing, a magi­cian, an ancient city. As for the ancient city, I had recent­ly vis­it­ed the fas­ci­nat­ing city of Naples (the Ital­ian one) and used its unusu­al placement—a steep hill—for the set­ting of the book.

As I may have said before, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in ghost sto­ries. I have writ­ten a num­ber of them, nov­els (Some­thing Upstairs) and short sto­ries such as Pets, about a ghost­ly cat. Most recent­ly there was The School of the Dead, with its open­ing words. “The first time Uncle Char­lie came to live with us, he was alive. The sec­ond time he came, he was dead.”

Mid­night Mag­ic is also a ghost story—but its core sto­ry is, Is there real­ly a ghost? Osten­si­bly it is a work of his­tor­i­cal fiction—Renaissance Italy—but has far less his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy than my usu­al fare. Rather, it is more about super­sti­tion con­tend­ing with ratio­nal thought. The ratio­nal­ist, how­ev­er, is the philoso­pher Man­gus, who pre­tends to be a magi­cian as a cov­er for his ratio­nal­ist think­ing. But he has a ser­vant boy, Fab­rizio, who ardent­ly does believe in mag­ic, and ghosts.

This dynam­ic (but con­trast­ing) duo must dis­cov­er whether a princess is being tru­ly haunt­ed by a ghost, or is she mere­ly pre­tend­ing to believe in the ghost so as to avoid an unwant­ed mar­riage? Man­gus, who does­n’t believe in ghosts, must rid the princess of the ghost or he shall lose his life. Fab­rizio is intent on find­ing that ghost so he can save his master.

If this sounds far­ci­cal, it’s meant to be. If it sounds like a mys­tery, it’s meant to be that, too. Is it a ghost sto­ry? Yes, in its own fash­ion. But at the core of the book is the boy, Fab­rizio, his adven­tures and how he deals with his mas­ter, the magi­cian who does­n’t believe in magic.

Who is right, man or boy? This is to say, does the ghost real­ly exist?

You won’t find the ghost of an answer here. You’ll have to read the book.

1 thought on “Story Behind the Story #37: Midnight Magic”

  1. If so-called real­i­ty is a sto­ry we tell our­selves, than ghosts are real for the teller of ghost stories.
    So yes– they’re real, all right.


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