User reviews for Conversations With Spirits

This book has 9 reviews with an average rating of 5 stars.

Taken with the author's permission from As has become customary in reviews of note, I must once again lead with a disclaimer – this one born of my own stunted temporal sensitivity; for me, time in publishing terms stopped when I left the book trade, in 2011, and therefore when I make reference to things published recently, recently might encompass more time that one might reasonably expect. Therefore, when I say that recently there has been a mini-spate of publications wherein someone challenges Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to flaunt his misguided beliefs in the face of scientific inquiry, you might be surprised to know that this includes Hjortsberg’s diverting crime novel Nevermore, first published in 1995, as well as the whimsical Oscar Wilde mysteries by Giles Brandreth, Arthur & George by Julian Barnes, one of the Flashman novels from George MacDonald Fraser, and by and lots of lower level self-published drivel flotsamming about the waters of the Sadly for Mr Higgins, my favourite Sir Arthur is definitely Hjortsberg’s, who is rather bemusingly and inexplicably haunted by the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe (Poe in turn believes himself to be the recipient of visits from the beyond from Doyle). Nonetheless, Higgins’ spiritualist Doyle is a worthy adversary for the rather superior yet curmudgeonly Trelawney Hart, semi-permanent resident of the reading room of the Hyperborea Club and firm materialist stroke cynic stroke dipsomaniac. Indeed, it is Doyle’s intervention which sets Hart on his quest to disprove the talents of mystic J. P. Beasant and leads to his discovery of some of the rummest drinking establishments that Kent has to offer. Doyle is equally curmudgeonly, possessed of the utmost self-belief and convinced that there are supernormal forces at work in the world. With sycophantic Woody in tow, Doyle cuts a somewhat ridiculous figure, fittingly so for this comic caper. And of course, a pompous old fool with firm beliefs is just the sort of windmill our quixotic anti-hero cannot pass up un-tilted. Hart borrows some duds and strikes out for Broadstairs, Kent! To round up with a nice, clean, trite conclusion would be to do Mr Higgins an injustice. For whilst the story is clean, pleasing, amusing and rather well written, there are many little things which add value to the experience, not the least of them being that this is another Unbound gem and as such comes in a luscious first edition format that rather shames my poor, beloved paperback collection. Others include the names of various vintage cigarettes, like Sheiks, Dragoumis and Ogden’s Guinea Golds, all of which make an appearance in the first few pages and which conjure images of smiling health professionals extolling the virtues of toasted tobacco for the throat and of their power to keep you slim. Now, to counterbalance my runaway enthusiasm for the book, and to pre-empt accusations of fawning flattery for the purposes of further vicarious glory, the resolution to the mystery is somewhat expected, even from the outset. Is that a flaw in the story? Not necessarily, but even allowing room for the suspension of disbelief, I was unable to seriously entertain the thought that Hart would be defeated. This might be due to the aforementioned literary encounters with a fictitious Sir Arthur as, to my knowledge, he rarely, if ever, triumphs* in his quest to prove that faeries and spirits exist. This might also be due to the rather flaccid attempts by Doyle’s present incarnation to convince a reader otherwise. It might also be because I’m a massive arse when it comes to spiritualist mumbo-jumbo. Also, the ending is a bit Poirot-esque where I expect, precisely because Hart consults a Sherlock Holmes mystery for guidance, it should have been Sherlockian. And Hart’s reluctant guide, Billy, does feel a little superfluous in places, perhaps like he was in life, and seems to serve only as a drinking associate for Hart, and someone to provide Doyle with further blockades to be breached by Hart’s intellectual siege engines when Hart himself is to unwell to witness the spectacle himself. Still, why gripe when for the most part what we have is immensely enjoyable? Lastly, an equally predictable and unrepentantly blatant plug for Unbound again. If you want to engage with what you read, then get in on the ground floor and support struggling writers, like Ed Higgins, whose work was discovered, as I understand it, on Jottify and for whom literary fame was a candle glimpsed through a dirty window from across a foggy moor until someone pressed alcohol into his hand and convinced him to chance his arm. *Injudicious over-use of commas was inserted deliberately to gently remind Mr Higgins of their beauty and import and to damn minimalist editors to hell.
‘Conversations with Spirits’ is a thoroughly enjoyable read which I found myself picking up with a frequency which can only be paralleled by Trelawney’s propensity to lift a glass of cherry brandy to his lips. Trelawney Hart is a strangely likeable odd-ball who has no understanding of social conventions and is quick to goad even the great Sir Arthur Conon Doyle. The exchanges between characters are quick witted, dry and funny and I found myself looking forward to Trelawney’s next social encounter, which inevitably end with an offended party and a trip to a local saloon for a ‘livener’. The mystery of J.P. Beasant’s power engages from start to finish and it is hard not to take on Trelawney’s mathematical and brutally logical manner in an attempt to discover the secret to Beasant’s great feats. A brilliant comic mystery, crammed full of vibrant characters and unexpected turns.
Amazing book by a talented author. Really enjoyable read!!! I couldn't put it down. Well, what are you waiting for? Buy it NOW! It's THAT good. You won't be disappointed.
There are distinguishable points in most novels from first time authors, where, if they are lucky, the reader decides that they may have discovered something very special. It might be a piece of dialogue, a clever turn of phrase or simply a well written observation, which lights a spark within the mind and eggs the reader to continue reading with eagerness and not a little avarice. I am unfortunate to be the very ashamed owner of a hummingbird mind, quick to bore and forever giving up and moving on to the next book, desperately looking to get ‘caught’ by a story and its author. With ‘Conversations with Spirits’ by EO Higgins, I am glad to say that my mind remained unusually engaged and this magical moment where my imagination was captured happened very early on indeed. The central character, ‘Trelawney Hart’, is in turn sharp, funny with a terrible habit of going too far in his witticisms and asides, before quickly switching to infuriating and despairing in his sometimes pathetic demeanour; the kind of man who could do with ‘a bloody good shake’. (I may quietly mention that I could see aspects of my own personality within these pages and I am not sure if this is something to be worried or comforted by). Set in 1917, the tale, written in the form of report, finds Hart, a man for whom pure logical thinking is a habit he is unable to break, tasked by none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to investigate a supposed psychic medium of unparalleled ability. This assignment forces him to make a rare, and, for him agonising, trip away from the safe confines of his club where he has hidden away in a state of ongoing and committed inebriation. His exploits take him to the south-eastern coast of wartime Britain, where he meets a variety of odd and beautifully crafted characters, (none more so than the quiet but solid Billy, an ideal foil for Hart’s reckless and nihilistic alcoholic). One thing is certain though; as a character, you cannot take your eyes away from Hart. Throughout the course of the book it is his voice, and his relaying of the events of his lost weekend in Broadstairs, Kent, that are the single most important element. By the end of the novel, I found that his words and his actions (some of which are hilariously slapstick in the finest sense of the word) had stayed deep within my mind, returning on occasion like some maddening but much loved occasional friend. This is a feat for which EO Higgins should be congratulated, and indeed thanked. That is not to say however that this novel is just a character study of a brilliant but dysfunctional man, far from it, there is much more to enjoy. Higgins’ use of the English language, through its perfect attention to detail, comfortably draws the reader into the age in which the tale is set. In fact its effectiveness resulted in my being not a little disheartened each time I closed the book, as this meant that I was forced to return to our modern age with all of its haste and complication. So there you have it. In my opinion Conversations with Spirits is a remarkable and exciting book. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to experience a first time author with a sharp eye for detail and a warm, heartfelt style of writing. It is a rare thing to discover something such as this. There are so many ‘new authors’ vying for our time and attention, we live in a world filled with opportunities to read and enjoy but we have only a limited number of hours in the day. There are so many other things to do, and life, with its continual demands, can often steal away and hide that next ‘favourite writer’ whose writing you will treasure and whose books you will always return to. The most entertaining Mr Higgins has indeed provided me with such in this first novel and I eagerly await further stories and adventures from him.
A colleague put me on to this book, saying it sounded interesting. So, my curiosity aroused, I got hold of a copy. I was drawn in from the first chapter and I finished it in record time - an indication of how compelling it is. E O's language is beautifully chosen to be evocative of the period and settings and his characterisation engaging. Topped off with a compelling plot, what's not to like? It's left me wondering, when can we expect a sequel?
Conversations with Spirits is a darkly humorous tale unashamedly following in the footsteps of the Sherlock Holmes and Raffles tales with a knowing wink at the reader thrown in for good measure. The protagonist, the exquisitely damaged Trelawny Hart is a wonderful mixture of dashing, sad and haunted; an Edwardian Withnail jolted out of his self-indulgent, booze-filled haze by an intriguing mystery that will keep readers guessing throughout a plot that shimmers and shifts like the sunlight through a glass of cherry brandy. The biggest mystery of all is whether there could ever be a sequel? Because frankly you'll finish this book thirsty for more.
I enjoy a drink, perhaps too much, but every now and again I sip an ale so fine that I fall off my stool. I’m not pissed, yet, but when you’ve sloshed through a zillion pints it is rare to find a beer that ruffles your hair, brings a smile and gives you a warm glow inside. It was two o’clock on a midweek morning when I realised that my quick dip into Conversations with Spirits had seen half the pages vanish. If fine ale is unusual then a tale woven this well is a CAMRA champion. EO Higgins takes us back to 1917, where we see the world through the eyes of Trelawney Hart. He’s a drunk, arrogant arse and we like him straight away. The plot, in which Hart spends a weekend in Kent attempting to debunk a psychic medium, is pacey and immediately engaging. Hart’s own journey of self discovery is made though an endless stream of brandy and wit – offending, endearing and undermining pretty much everyone he meets. Higgins explores the early twentieth century fascination with Spiritualism with great insight, cleverly working observations into dialogue to deliver facts and genuine disharmony without upsetting the rhythm of the narrative. In simple terms, this is a brilliant novel. Clever, funny and well worth losing a few hours sleep for.
Trelawney Hart is the tragic hero in this beautifully written psychic mystery. When famous writer and spiritualist, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle asks him to investigate the ‘Broadstairs Miracle’, he begrudgingly accepts. Drowned in self-indulgence and cherry brandy, he sets out to expose the event as misdirection and trickery. Once there however, he witnesses events that even he can’t explain. In Conversations with Spirits, Higgins paints a vivid and lingering picture of 1917 Broadstairs, filled with intriguing characters, strange happenings and an unlikely friendship. Expect surprise, tender moments and laugh out loud humour from the first page. For me, finishing this book was a bittersweet mix of satisfaction with sadness that it had to end. A fantastic read.
Conversations With Spirits is a fabulous book. It's a beautifully paced, rip roaring story that draws imaginatively from a wealth of literary styles to create the kind of novel you wish you could read in one sitting. Trelawney Hart, the most engaging of anti heroes, provides the perfect foil to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and their journey into the murky world of early twentieth century spiritualism is paved with twists that are funny, exciting and sometimes even a little thought provoking. The dialogue is believable and each conversation reveals a little more of how events change and develop each character. The author's thorough research provides the kind of intricate but unobtrusive attention to detail that creates vivid settings and a genuine atmosphere. The philosophy behind the publication of Conversations With Spirits is quite possibly the blueprint for the future of successful literature. The featured books survive on their own merit. This book deserves, not just its success to date, but the kind of popularity that leads to even greater things. It's an excellent read. The book itself looks beautiful and the author is an all round good egg. What's not to love?
Publication date: October 2013
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