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Last Case At A Baggage Auction Eric J Guignard Main

"Last Case at a Baggage Auction" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Harper Day Books

last case at a baggage auction eric j guignard poster large

Written by Eric J. Guignard
2020, 156 pages, Fiction
Released on 3 August 2020

Review:

Occasionally I stumble upon a novella which is so beautifully formed, I instinctively imagine how it would transfer to the screen; not necessarily cinematic, but an episode of The Twilight Zone or similar show. From its enigmatic title to its authentically chatty 1960s pulp style, Last Case at a Baggage Auction immediately sucked me in, and I was as keen to discover the contents of Charlie and Joey’s lost-luggage purchases as the two gamblers were! This story is framed around this outstanding and very original hook which I am convinced would look truly great as an episode on Shudder’s new version of Creepshow, seen as The Twilight Zone is no longer with us.

Interestingly, Last Case at a Baggage Auction was originally published in 2013 with different text and a format which combined an established author (Lisa Morton) with Guignard, who at the time was a newbie. Both works were packaged together in what was to be a short-lived series of a few publications. The original novella was released as Baggage of Eternal Night and Guignard sees this new version as the “Author’s Preferred Text” (and preferred title), as he refers to it in the fascinating endnotes.

Since this initial appearance of this short novel or novella (at 156 pages I am not certain which it is), Guignard has developed an impressive reputation for his weird fiction and although this is my first foray into his work, I will happily return for further helpings. Last Case at a Baggage Auction (Guignard is quite correct, this title is much smarter) takes us back to Detroit 1963 where two wheeler dealer hustlers buy and sell objects they win in bids at auctions of items (luggage, suitcases and boxes) which have either been left, forgotten, or lost in big hotels. They might spend $5 (opening bids are $1) but have purchased a baggage with contents worth $500, or then again, maybe it is worthless used underwear. As the main character Charlie Stewart is a gambler, he loves the excitement of opening his buy and discovering what the contents might be and does not mind coming up financially short, as he gets a genuine kick out of the hunt. This is a quirky concept to lie at the centre of the story and Guignard cleverly brings the auction process to life and it had me wondering whether many of these sales really happened. Something tells me they are real.

I love the authentic, colourful and witty first-person narrative as Charlie and his best friend Joey Third get more than they bargain for when they buy a trunk which includes an old gramophone record player with the story revolving around what happens when they listen to the disturbing music accompanying it. This aspect of the story is very smart and even though cursed objects are nothing new in fiction, it is described so vividly you can almost feel the crackles as the horrid chanting morphs into something much darker and sinister with the sounds obsessively getting under the skin of those who are unfortunate enough to hear the voices. Charlie Stewart narrates the story and does a convincing job of portraying a sense of unease in his attempts to aid his partner.

The second half of the story makes a brave move by introducing a genuine historical (and rather notorious) character into the story and I am not convinced this is a complete success. Charlie, far too conveniently, discovers a way of shoe-horning his historical backstory into the plot and this plays a part in the story losing a touch of momentum in the later stages. This guy, to my knowledge, rarely appears in fiction, so perhaps some backstory is a necessity. However, I do wonder how things might have played out if instead of relying on a genuine historical character for the supernatural angle; alternatively, Guignard dreams up his own. On the other hand, this would have undoubtedly taken the story into a fresh direction.

I had a lot of fun with Last Case at a Baggage Auction and I am sure the haunting scratchy chanting invaded my dreams! It has an outstanding sense of time and place, very engaging narration, and a supernatural hook to savour. There are also striking illustrations from Steve Lines and it is a book you will whizz through in no time.

All together now: “Vkhodite. Vkhodite. Vkhodite.”

Grades:

Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
Buy from Amazon US
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Buy from Amazon UK

About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Writer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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