What do you think might be the best book title ever?November 26, 2007
I’m pretty sure I’ve never come across one better than Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter.
In the 1940s, the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, put out a number of these “Authorized Editions” — purely fictional mysteries and adventures of real life stars or popular characters (one of the books advertised in the back of the Shirley Temple one is called Little Orphan Annie and the Gila Monster Gang). They continued putting out these sorts of books into the sixties — I bought my dad an Annette Funicello one once, but somehow it’s ended up on my shelves — but in the forties they had real stars, like Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, and Dorothy Lamour. Some of them featured the stars as themselves, but in a bunch of them, they’re, like, alternate universe versions of themselves: the have the same names and appearances, but entirely different lives. In Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter (by Kathryn Heisenfelt), Shirley is herself and people keep recognizing her, but in Annette: The Desert Inn Mystery, which was written y the same author, Annette Funicello is an ordinary girl who has been raised in California by her strict grandparents.
I’m only halfway through Shirley Temple and the Screaming Specter, but it’s lots of fun. Shirley is staying at a mostly deserted resort with some family friends, where she hears that a lot of strange things have been happening ever since some people blew up a rock under which a witch was supposed to have been buried. Shirley doesn’t believe in witches, but she knows something is up, because people keep dying. At the point where I left of, she’s just found a small girl in, like, a pile of garbage or something.
I’m figuring that the guy who told Shirley about the screaming specter must be the villain, because he’s an artist and the one piece of his that Shirley has seen is an ugly portrait of a beautiful woman. It would be cool if he wasn’t, though, because he’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across in a book of this kind.