Table of Contents
Christopher Ransom was born and educated in Colorado, but moved to New York and then LA with his wife to pursue various careers such as selling ads for media magazines and screenwriting. They then bought a 140-year-old birthing house in Wisconsin, where he wrote his first novel.
Also by Christopher Ransom
The Birthing House
The Haunting of James Hastings
Published by Hachette Digital 2010
Copyright © Christopher Ransom 2010
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those
clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance
to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
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A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
eISBN : 978 0 7481 1675 1
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To you, my good-hearted father, for all the beanstalks.
reader advisory sticker
This is not a Ghost story.
After spending three years in his employ, I could write that book if I wanted to, for it was I who shadowed the bard of pharma, serial killers and boobies, the man
called The Biggest Rapper in History, the lyrical genius and pop culture scourge all the kids wanted to be like, be with or simply be - Ghost.
Of course there were times when I was not allowed backstage, under the velvet rope, into the blacked-out limo. But I could provide you with very detailed, often salacious reportage from behind these scenes too. Page Six-worthy events whispered and texted to me. Guest-house gossip, bitch-slapped Twitter kittens drowning in pity, a dope opera in snippets. I could offer such a tale because his bodyguards, his trainer, his manager and even his psychotic ex-wife, Drea-Jenna, pinned his dirty laundry on the clothesline strung between my ears. And in one way or another, all three of his personas - the artist known as Ghost, his alter ego Snow Flakey and Nathaniel Eric Riverton, that scared white boy from St Louis - let me into their shadow world.
It was not a pretty place.
But unless you haven’t read a newspaper or a magazine or watched MTV or paid any attention to pop culture for the past seven years, you already know that story -
Five multi-platinum albums that sold forty-six million copies worldwide, tours through twenty-two countries, seven Grammys, addiction and predilection, acrimonious matrimony, nubile groupies, divorce, club fights and fight clubs, first class stabbin’ cabins, three stints in rehab. Blood oaths, gun smoke, media storms, trials for assault and attempted murder both by and against Ghost, squabbles in Houston, Denver and Miami, the beat downs always overhyped and true. Hair bleach, tatts, wife beaters, forties and sneakers. Beats, bass, tempo. Rhyme, spit, verse. Uppers, downers, roofies, poppies and snow. Gunshots, pills, journals and worm holes. Hollywood film sets and Scarlett starlets, Oscar noms, broken-hearted moms, lyric sheets, dedications, shout-outs, endorsements, VIP rooms, cocaine brooms, name-drops, cops, race cards, turf wars, record execs and all the excess that made Ghost public enemy number one and, for a time, the One.
Yes, yes. But you don’t know my story. Which is, in a way, funny. Because without Ghost, his excess and success, I wouldn’t have a story. He would never have needed a body double, and I, James Hastings, born with eerily similar genetic cues, would have gone into a different line of work. I would not have washed my hair in peroxide and dressed like him for Halloween. Strangers in the bar that night would never have said
Oh my God it’s him!
Stacey would never have urged me to enter that radio station contest. I would not have landed in the local paper, then the AP wire and
’s annual celebrity lookalike feature, where I caught the attention of Ghost’s manager. I might have followed a more traditional path for an aspiring actor, serving lettuce wraps at P. F. Chang’s and taking heroin to cure my blues. If I had not pretended to be someone else, my girl might never have left me, in which case we could have gone on to a brighter future, any future, together.
If only. I would gladly choose heroin addiction to . . . this.
But Ghost needed a double, I needed the money, and - I can barely admit this now - it sounded like a lot of fun at the time. Being a part of his world, imagining that his career was my career, his lifestyle my lifestyle. I fell for all of it, and it felt good to be looked at the way they looked at him, always with that mixture of fear, lust, need. He never needed me more than when he was on top of the world.
To tell the truth, by then I think Ghost was sick of looking at me. This is understandable. I was sick of looking at him, too. No one wants to go around being shadowed by his
. In a way, that’s what I was doing all along. Watching the bigger, bolder, more talented version of myself, the self I would never be. Not that I ever had the chops, or even wanted to be a rapper. But a somebody, a superstar? Who doesn’t want to be one of those for a day?
A possible irony: in the year that has passed since I terminated my employment, Ghost has pulled another disappearing act. Retirement, rehab, hiding in Bulgaria. No one knows. Or maybe they do know and I just haven’t been paying attention. And so what if he did retire his jersey? There may never be another rapper, of any skin color, to equal him. But he’s made his mark. The work stands. He will always be remembered . . .
I hope the foul-mouthed white motherfucker is dead. I hope his death was not a peaceful one. If his reaper came in the form of so many pills, I hope they dissolved him inside out over a period of days, leaving a slug trail of his blood on the linoleum where he screamed his last. If the black curtain descended on him in the form of jealous star or enraged record executive, I hope his murderer scooped his eyeballs from his skull with a cantaloupe baller, severed his limbs with a dull machete, made a gasoline pyre of his remains and salted the earth where his ashes were buried.
If he’s not dead and he does come back, he can tell his own wretched story.
We are in the aftermath. It’s my turn to serve it up. But I’m not writing this to gain your sympathy. I’m not even writing it for you, whoever you may be. In fact, unless something terrible and irreversible happens to me, unless something worse than death comes for me, this growing document will never see the light of day.
I’m laying it down for the same reason he wrote all those mad thumping addictively dark songs. I have to get it out of me. I don’t know if such a thing is possible, but I have to try. I can’t live like this. I can’t live with the black holes in my memory, the negative spaces that host the demons and invite the waking nightmares in.
I’m writing this because I need to remember. I need to remember Stacey.
Now I have a ghost story to tell you.
The first thing, though, is that my wife didn’t really leave me.
Stacey left the house for work, back when she was on mornings at the garden center in the Marina. She was scheduled for only fifteen hours a week or so, just enough that she didn’t have to ask me for money to pay for her flowers and the little bird baths and crystal balls she collected for the gardens in our backyard. She developed interests abruptly and obsessively, changed jobs accordingly, and for the past nine months she had approached gardening like a combat soldier, all biceps and lip dew, wading in wearing surplus shorts, Kevlar kneepads, a paisley bandana on her head and the serrated, Japanese bayonet-like Hori-Hori strapped to her thigh. In lieu of a paycheck she brought home hundreds of dollars’ worth of flora. She liked to lose herself in the labor, sometimes coming to bed with dried soil on her legs, her nails grimy for days at a time, which I found kind of sexy, I admit. Hot wife getting dirty and all that. I thought she took the job to maintain a sense of independence, but now I understand it was a reason to get out of the house, away from me.
To get from our home in West Adams to Marina del Rey, she had to take the alley behind 21st up to Arlington, Arlington to Washington Boulevard, follow Washington westbound for about seven miles, then slide down Lincoln, all of which, at 8 a.m., can eat an hour. Of course the Ten is another option, but though it is a five-lane Interstate in each direction, at that hour traffic is so bad it makes you want to join the Taliban.
Stacey didn’t like using the alley. But I told her to keep her car in the garage for security reasons, and the alley was the quickest route in and out of the neighborhood, so she used it.