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Rachmaninoff’s Ghost; Isle of the Dead
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-195-3
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Supernatural/Horror/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 173 Pages
Published: November 2004
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

Mark Conner wants to be a pianist, but when he transfers to Southeastern Louisiana University, he is told he doesn?t have the talent. Mark’s obsession with Sergei Rachmaninoff, the great Russian composer, and his fascination with the Occult lead to a horrific tale of desire, fame, and revenge.

"...Korn has fed upon Poe, Lovecraft and Richly Sinewed Music, but above all upon himself! I thought the first two-thirds of Rachmaninoff’s Ghost splendid, but its last third of Jungian nightmare literally took my head off. If Korn’s photo is not on the front of Time magazine, as a result, injustice will sure be done..." -- D.F. Lewis

"Michael Korn is a protean talent, slouching roughly toward Bethlehem." --Jeff VanderMeer

Reviews and Awards

Review in Baton Rouge ADVOCATE Newspaper
Rachmaninoff’s Ghost. M. F. Korn.

Local author and pianist M. F. Korn combines two things he loves--classical music and horror--in his most recently published novel. Rachmaninoff’s Ghost is a story of possession which is set mostly in Hammond, Louisiana, on the campus of Southeastern University. In this tale, Mark Connor forgoes his parents? dream that he study engineering at Louisiana State University to pursue his own of studying the piano. But alas, while Mark plays well enough, his talents only earn him conditional acceptance to a program at Southeastern. While finding his way around the university, Mark indulges in another passion of his, looking for obscure books on the occult in used book stores. He hits pay dirt when he finds a copy of the Necronomicon, the allegedly fictitious book of the dead mentioned in the writing of H. P. Lovecraft. Later he uses one of the spells found in the book to conjure the spirit of Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The problem is that Rachmaninoff doesn?t just appear to Mark; he takes possession of him. Suddenly Mark’s playing becomes inspired, and someone from Time magazine comes to hear him play. But doom ultimately awaits the person who believes he can channel the dead and emerge unscathed: when Mark conjured the spirit of his favorite composer in order to take advantage of his talent, he did not realize that there is a terrible price to pay, as a living body cannot successfully host two spirits at once. Ultimately Mark collapses into a shambling lunatic, thus ending his piano career.

Rachmaninoff’s Ghost is Korn’s first novel, written in 1984, soon after the author graduated from college with a degree in piano, but it was not published until 2003. The influence of the classic ghost story on his early writing is evident, and people wishing to read a relatively gentle tale of possession will be pleased. As a whole, this novel isn?t very gory when compared with other works in the horror genre, and Rachmaninoff’s Ghost is less subtle and atmospheric, more plot-driven, than Korn’s later work. Unfortunately, anyone looking for local color will be disappointed, as Rachmaninoff’s Ghost doesn?t evoke a specific time and place as poignantly as does his previous novel, Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear. Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear, set in Baton Rouge in the early 1980s, accurately recreates the Chimes Street and LSU culture of that era, as well as evoking the malaise of that decade, leaving readers with the image of zombies running rampant through the now defunct Bon Marche Mall. Rachmaninoff’s Ghost, however, doesn?t do the same for Hammond.

---June Pulliam LSU Instructor, Horror Lit, English and Gender Studies



Rachmaninoff’s Ghost; Isle of the Dead (Excerpt)


An Antecedent and a Horror

Near the corner of 57th and Columbus in Manhattan, New York, a tall, thin young man lay sprawled on the sidewalk. He wore a filthy trenchcoat over a tattered navy-blue suitcoat. His body was not quite in the shade of the awning of a brownstone building housing Al’s Tailoring Shop.

It was the shank of winter - a blustery day in this city, a miasmic city full of Existential fury. It was lunch hour for the business crowd. The masses of businessmen and women went about their appointed rounds. The skyscrapers were edified against a cerulean sky and their jutting shadows dwarfed the rushing crowds on the street. The stifling traffic, cabs and trucks, honking and bleating, crept past the young derelict choking on exhaust fumes.

The man shivered with fright and cold. His chest spasmed with pain. He coughed violently as masses of passersby walked over and around him. He lay facedown on the street drain. His blonde crew cut was tainted with filth, his bare ankles blistered beneath scuffed-up dress shoes. Death seemed to lurk over his dry-heaving body. Panic glazed his eyes. He wasn?t unconscious, but silent and still.

A hot-dog vendor, who had been watching the prone man for twenty minutes, walked up to where he lay motionless.

"Hey? You all right?"

"No."

"You want me to call a cop or something?"

"I am Sergei," mumbled the man. "I have been to the Isle of the Dead. You know?"

"What are you saying?"

No answer.

"Okay." The vendor shrugged. He slowly walked back to his cart. He muttered "crackhead" to himself.

The young man had been sleeping in a hotel near 45th until he was kicked out; then it was Central Park - until the cops forced him to move on. He couldn?t remember his last meal. His face was handsome.

He?d been nodding in and out of narcoleptic stages when two medics from nearby Saint Luke’s Hospital appeared, dispatched in response to a concerned 911 call. They approached him slowly and cautiously.

"Hey, Mister. Mister . . . Come along with us."

He didn?t move. The medic spoke again.

The young man lifted his head.

"That’s it. . . . Get yourself up, now. . . . Gooood . . . That’s it, now."

The man managed to stand up with their help. They walked him to the ambulance. He mumbled, "Isle of the Dead. . ."

The driver radioed in to his dispatcher:

"We?ve got a Caucasian male, no identification, early twenties. He probably hasn?t eaten - really out of it. Dehydrated, emaciated, irregular breathing, not responding much . . . possibly drugs. Low pulse rate, blood pressure ninety over sixty."

At the emergency room of St. Lukes, a hospital gown replaced his torn clothing, and they put him on an IV drip.

"Yeah, he’s dehydrated," assessed the nurse.

He sobbed on the bed. He tried to speak but only slurred in intervals.

"Rachmaninoff . . . have . . . been to . . . Isle of the Dead."

"Okay, that’s fine," coached the nurse. "Now, is that your name? Where do you live?"

He didn?t understand.

"You look like you haven?t eaten for a while. You don?t look like a druggie to me. Mental illness, maybe? Who knows?"

"What have we got here?" asked the doctor, picking up the patient’s printout off the end of the bed

"Seems to be delusional. All he seems to say is ?I am Rachmaninoff,? or some Russian-sounding name like that. Like Sergei something. That might be his name, right?"

"Probably not. Don?t you know your composers, Gwen?"

"A shopkeeper said he saw him busting into businesses, raving about the Isle of the Dead or something. Saying he was going to be on the cover of Time magazine. Then they saw him lay in the gutter all morning. Said they figured him for dead. He has no wallet, nothing."

"Looks emaciated, way underweight," said Dr. Kennedy, looking at his patient whose blank expression silently spoke of mental anguish. His pale face was a portrait of tortured features.

"So, he thinks he is Rachmaninoff, eh?" the doctor continued. "It’s okay there, young man. We?ll take care of you. Give him a change of clothes, and we?ll get him transferred to Behavioral if he starts coming around. No medical insurance here, obviously. If he doesn?t eat in a while, he’s a goner. Keep that intravenous drip for a good while."

"Yes, Dr. Kennedy. I?ll finish up his chart in just a minute and bring it back to you," she said.

"Good."