"Matt Haig has an empathy for the human condition, the light and the dark of it, and he uses the full palette to build his excellent stories." —Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods
Philip Noble is an eleven-year-old in crisis. His pub landlord father has died in a road accident, and his mother is succumbing to the greasy charms of her dead husband's brother, Uncle Alan. The remaining certainties of Philip's life crumble away when his father's ghost appears in the pub and declares Uncle Alan murdered him.
Arming himself with weapons from the school chemistry cupboard, Philip vows to carry out the ghost's relentless demands for revenge. But can the words of a ghost be trusted any more than the lies of the living?
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.08(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The First Time I Saw Dad After HeDied
It was two hours after the funeraland everyone was downstairs in the Pub.
I walked down thehall and pushed the door and went into the smoke and all the voices went quietlike I was the ghost.
Carla the Barmaidwas wearing her hoop earrings and her tired eyes. She was pouring a pint andshe smiled at me and she was going to say something but the beer spilt over thetop.
Uncle Alan who is Dads brother was there wearing his suit that was tight with hisneck pouring over like the beer over the glass. His big hands still had theblack on them from mending cars at the Garage. They were over Mums hands andMums head was low like it was sad and Uncle Alans head kept going down and helifted Mums head up with his eyes. He kept talking to Mum and he looked at mefor a second and he saw me but he didnt say anything. He just looked back atMum and kept pouring his words that made her forget about Dad.
Nan was sitting on her own with her silver sticks on the seat next to her and shewas drinking red juice like blood in her glass.
Her eyes went in a squint and made her face more wrinkly and she saw me. Herskeleton hand said Come here come here so I went and sat with her and she juststared at me and didnt say anything at first. She just looked round at everyoneand went Sssss because of her pains like she had a puncture.
After a bit she said Ee now come on pet dinny you fret. It will be all right son.
Nan lives in Sunderland and she speaks Sunderlanguage. Mum used to live inSunderland but she hates it and says it is a Ghost Town and she doesnt talkSunderlanguage only a bit when she talks to Nan but most of the time she talksnormal.
Nan said Youre not a little bairn now son. Youre the man of the place.
I am 11 so I am not a little bairn and I am not a man but I didnt say anything Ijust nodded my head a bit and Carla came and gave me a glass of Pepsi.
Carla said in her croaky frog voice Theres a glass of Pepsi duck.
She put it on the table and smiled at me with her thin lips and she itched the dryness on her armand then smiled at Nan and she went back to the bar.
Nan kept on saying things and I just drank my Pepsi and looked round at the people. I think mostof them were happy that the Pub was open and they were talking louder than atthe funeral because funerals make voices quiet and beer makes voices loud sonow they were speaking about normal.
The Regulars were there like Big Vic and Les who were at the bar and smoking Hamletcigars and speaking to Carla.
Carla always talked to men since her Divorce and since she stopped falling over and gettingthe bruises. Mum used to tell Dad she thought Carla was an Old Tart but sheliked her really. I dont know if Carla is older than Mum because she has twinsin my Year at school but she looks older than Mum.
Les didnt look happy but Les never looked happy and that is why Dad always called him LesMiserable. And when I was looking at them Big Vic looked at me and normallywhen he looked at me he smiled or said something funny like Oi Philip its yourround. But that day he looked away as soon as his eyes touched my eyes as iflooking at my eyes could be dangerous or make him ill or as if my eyes hadlasers in them that cut him in half.
I moved my eyes and watched Mum and Uncle Alan and I wanted Uncle Alans hands to stop holdingMums hands and they did stop when Renuka went and talked to Mum. Renuka is Mumsbest friend who goes to Step class with her on Mondays and Thursdays where theyStep on boxes for an hour to make their bums smaller. Renuka had been with Mumlots this week and she had made 700 cups of tea and Uncle Alan looked cross nowbecause when Renuka talks no one can fit words in because she doesnt have anyspaces.
I kept looking round the bar and Nan kept talking to me and that is when I saw him. That iswhen I saw Dads Ghost.
King Of The CASTLE
You are meant to be frightened when you see a ghost but I was not frightened because it felt completely normal which is weird because I had never seen a ghost before. He was just standingthere behind the smoke of Big Vics cigar and he was looking at me and notscared of my eyes like everyone else was.
Carla was next to him serving drinks but she didnt notice him and I looked round andno one noticed him apart from me. After she had served the drinks Carla walkedthrough Dads Ghost to go and see herself in the mirror which says Castle andFalcon because that is the name of our Pub.
Dads Ghost was wearing the same clothes Dad was wearing the last time I saw himwhich was at breakfast on the day he died when I made him cross because Iwanted the PlayStation. He was wearing his T shirt which said King of theCastle with the word CASTLE written in red capital letters like on the signoutside the Pub. But now all the colours were more faded because Dad was paleand see through like the ghosts at the Haunted Mansion in Disney World and hehad blood running down from his hair.
Nan asked me Whats the matter pet?
She turned to see where I was looking but she couldnt see anything and Dads Ghost was now tellingme to follow him with his hand.
I said to Nan I need the toilet.
I went passed the bar and down the hall and into the back office where Dads Ghost walked throughthe door.
I checked to see if anyone was looking and they werent so I opened the doorbecause I couldnt walk through it and Dads Ghost was standing in the corner bythe desk and the computer was on which was weird.
He nodded to the door and so I shut it and then he said Dont be scared.
I said Im not.
His voice sounded the same but different like he was standing far away but I couldhear him more clearly than ever. That doesnt make sense but that is how hesounded.
And the second thing he said was Im sorry.
I said For what?
He said For everything.
And when he said it I thought he was talking about the past when he was alive but now I am notsure.
I went across the room and I went to touch him and my hand went right through andcouldnt feel anything except a bit warmer but I might have just been thinkingthat.
I dont think Dads Ghost liked me doing it but he didnt say anything but I didntdo it again.
I said Are you a ghost?
It was a stupid question but I didnt know what to say.
He said Yes.
I said Where have you been?
He said I am not here all the time. I go on and off.
And I said Like a light bulb?
And he smiled but in a sad way and he said Yes like a light bulb. It is hard tocontrol where I go but I am getting better.
And I said Have you been to the Pub before?
He nodded his head and said You were asleep.
Then I asked him if he sees other ghosts and he said There are lots of ghosts inNewark and they take some getting used to because they are all from differentages. And I said It must beweird seeing all the ghosts.
He said It is but you get used to it.
Then he was quiet for a second and then he said Philip.
So I said What?
But really I didnt want to know because I could tell from his voice that he was going to saysomething bad like when Grandad died.
He said I have to tell you something.
And then he stopped for a minute and looked at the door and I wondered why he was lookingat the door but then Uncle Alan walked in and he never walks in the office andUncle Alan looked at the computer and he said Your Mum sent me to look for you.
And he was smiling and his big hands were holding his glass of whisky on his bigstomach. And he went over and touched my shoulder and he said Are you all rightPhilip?
And I said Yes.
And he said Its been a tough day for all of us.
I said Yes.
I just wanted him to stop touching my shoulder.
I could see Dads Ghost looking at him and he was looking at him in a way I hadnever seen him look at anyone before especially not his brother and I knew hedidnt like him being in the office. So I said Ill go out in a minute Im justlooking for something.
And Uncle Alan sighed and made the air smell of whisky and he was going to say something buthe wasnt my Dad and so he went out again and shut the door.
Then I looked at Dads Ghost who was flickering and screaming but with the volumedown and then he came back and he said I might not have long.
Then he faded out for about five seconds and came back.
He tried to speak and all I could hear was It wasnt Andthen he tried again and again.
Itwasnt an axe
Hedisappeared and I said Dad Dad Dad Come back! Come back!
But he didnt.
Then I heard a voice say Oh Philip and it was my Mums voice and I dont know how longshe had been there and Uncle Alan was now behind her and touching her shoulderbut she didnt feel the coldness down her back like I did.
The Bad News
Dad died because his car crashed into a bridge outside of Kelham which is a village near Newark. There was a picture of it on East Midlands Today and it showed the whole car hanging overthe edge like it was going to fall into the River Trent. All the windows weresmashed like spiders webs and the woman on the news was talking about thebridge having to be closed for two months as if the bridge was the importantthing.
Before we saw the news there was a policeman who came to the back door and I knew thepoliceman because he had been into the Pub before talking to Dad. The policemanhad a face like an empty plate and he opened and closed his mouth for a longtime with nothing coming out but air.
I was watching from the top of the stairs and they couldnt see me and I couldnthear them properly but I knew something was wrong from the way the policemanhad his hat on his chest.
And then they went into the office and shut the door and I could hear nothing forages and then I heard Mum. She was howling like a WOLF and the noise hurt mystomach and I closed my eyes to try and hear the policeman and all he was sayingwas Im sorry and he kept on saying it
and I knew that he hadnt done anything wrong because he was a policeman and policemen only say sorry if something very bad has happened. So I knew right then what the pain in mystomach was. And I saw the policeman leave and the hat was in his hand but noton his chest any more like the Bad News had been in there and set free. And Isaw Mum and she saw me but didnt see me properly and she went to the corner ofthe hall by the radiator and sat down in a ball and cried and shook her head inher hands and said No no no no no and everywhere round us looked the same butbigger and I wanted to go and tell her it was OK but that would have been a lieand so I just sat there and did nothing.
What People are Saying About This
"The Dead Fathers Club has much to recommend it. . . . It's ingenious." -USA Today"Captures a studied, Haddonesque naivete." -Entertainment Weekly"We now owe another debt to Shakespeare, and one to Haig, for re-imagining a tragic masterpiece with such wit, force, and-yes-originality." -Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"Humorous and original." -Daily Mail (London)"An absolutely irresistible read." -Booklist (starred review)