Cole is trying his best to man up and deal with the things he’s done. He used to run with the wrong crowd back in Boston, doing heavy lifting for his lifelong friend Chance Miller’s not so legit business. It was fun for awhile, especially spending ‘quality time’ with Chance’s beautiful if slightly psychotic sister, Delilah. Then Cole said the wrong thing to the wrong person and took a knife to the gut for his troubles. Not so fun anymore.
Older and trying to be wiser, Cole now lives in Baltimore with his new bride, Amy. He’s got a steady construction gig renovating houses, and he and Amy are working on adding a new edition to their family. The future’s looking bright. That is until two old ghosts crawl out of the shadows of the past and cast a pall over Cole’s future.
Upon arriving at his newest home renovation project, Cole’s informed by his boss, Paddy, that the owner and his wife have some very specific requests for the basement, and that they also give him a bit of the creeps. Cole immediately understands why when he’s introduced to the couple… Chance and Delilah.
Seems in the time since Cole last saw them they’ve upgraded their business and joined forces with the Russian Mafia. Oh, and they’re moving that business to Baltimore and want Cole to pick up where he left off and help them out moving a big shipment. Now Cole has to figure out a way to get out from under the ghosts of the past without turning his future into a nightmare.
A man with a troubled past searching for redemption. It’s an old theme, one which most writers have tried their hand at one time or another. Of course, Nik Korpon isn’t most writers. No, he takes what could have been a paint by numbers story and injects it with a tangible sense of humanity and desperation, and menace. Cole’s past is doled out in bits throughout Old Ghosts giving the reader just enough insight to explain why it isn’t as simple for Cole as just telling Chance and Delilah to piss off, but without ever fully explaining why their hold over him is so strong Cole can’t seem to break it. That half reveal causes the story to unfold in a constant state of tension, with the reader never quite sure which way Cole is going to jump. It makes for a wonderful sense of pacing, one which gives the novella a more meaty feel than one would expect from a work that clocks in at a tight 90 pages.
Korpon also makes beautiful use of the juxtaposition of Cole’s desire to have a child with Amy and the fact that it was the violent way Cole’s past with his old ‘family’ ended – that knife to the gut – which is actually the reason Cole and Amy are unable to create a new family of their own. And I’m sure it was no accident that Korpon gave Cole employment renovating and reconstructing homes, a job that mirros the renovation and reconstruction of Cole’s life. It’s touches and attention to detail like that which lift Old Ghosts above the standard ‘man seeking redemption’ tale, and which prove that Nik Korpon is undeniably an emerging talent to be reckoned with.
Old Ghosts is available from Snubnose Press.
I also wanted to point out that the killer cover art for this e-book edition of Old Ghosts was done by the wonderful Boden Steiner, who also did the covers for the print version of Old Ghosts (which you can see on Boden’s site), By the Nails of the Warpriest, and Speedloader.