As regular readers will know, I'm fascinated by how many good horror stories are set in hotels, and the latest This Is Horror chapbook is another one to add to my list. The Elvis Room by Stephen Graham Jones is a gripping story about a psychic researcher who stays in many such strange hotels, investigated the so-called 'Elvis Room' effect - all hotels, he's learnt, nearly always hold back one room even when they say they are full, just in case a celebrity should turn up - and rumour has it that if that room is taken by a guest, someone in the hotel will die during the night...
It's an intriguing concept, and enough for most writers to hang a whole story off, but here it's just one idea amongst many. From the researchers initial fall from academic grace (triggered by finding evidence of the supernatural that he was trying to refute, but being treated like a crank by his colleagues anyway), to why passing strangers in hotels might be more sinister than you suspect, to the conflict between science and the supernatural, to just why the narrator might be on his third wife already.... there's a hell of a lot going on here, and it's a tribute to Jones skill that it never feels strained, that all the ideas dovetail naturally with each other and tie together at the story's end. Like the TARDIS, this one feels bigger when you're inside reading it than when outside observing it's slim page count. And like the TARDIS there's a kind of magic to that.
The teller of the story, in classic unreliable narrator fashion, tells us he is just wanting to know the truth... but he might be deluding himself even more than he, or we, realise at the start. There's enough subtlety around this element to make it pleasingly ambiguous, and make the story highly rereadable.
Oh, and ace cover art, too.
I've never read anything by Stephen Graham Jones before, and if The Elvis Room is anything to go by that's been a decidedly poor choice on my part. One of the best things I've read this year.
The Elvis Room (Amazon UK | US)