With a step-mother who can’t help but hear and see ghosts no matter how many Alba songs she sings, no longer Nola Trenholm ends up buying a haunted home in New Orleans in Karen White’s latest book.

Author Karen White has added another page-turner to her repertoire of haunted houses and ghosts who won’t stay put in her latest book, “The Shop on Royal Street.”

White, who has written more 30 books, including the very successful haunted home Tradd Street Series, now has moved her spooky action from Charleston to New Orleans as we follow Nola Trenholm, who buys a Creole cottage that needs extensive work only to discover that some of the previous occupants are still living there — if living is the right term to apply to people who are dead.

But you can’t say Nola wasn’t warned. Her stepmother, who hears and sees ghosts like the rest of us see cars on the streets, tours the house with her before she signs the paperwork and suggests that it would be better to burn it down than then to move in.

As if that wasn’t enough of a warning, while they’re looking around there’s a sudden scream and an explosion of antique blue bottles — a seemingly spontaneous event with no possible explanation as to why it happened.

It turns out that the home was the scene of an unsolved murder, and to help her figure out what to do, Nola has to rely upon Beau Ryan, who can communicate with the spirits, something Nola unfortunately is unable to do. But Beau’s past is mysterious. His sister and parents disappeared during Hurricane Katrina and he is also connected to the murder that took place in Nola’s new home.

Nola has her own issues as well. A recent college graduate, like her parents she has addiction issues. Her father, Jack Trenholm, a best-selling novelist, has been able to overcome his demons, but her mother, a drug addict, didn’t.

White, who says she definitely believes in ghosts, has never seen one herself.

“And I’ve definitely put myself in places that are haunted,” she said.

Her grown son has and he is definitely not happy about it.

Is it hard to write about ghosts if you’ve never seen one, I ask White when we chat on the phone?

It turns out it is, since White never plans or plots her books, so what the characters say and do, whether they’re still alive or not, just flows as she writes.

Her human characters can be difficult and so can the spirits.

”I don’t use the ghosts to be scary, I use them as characters — it’s like having a neighbor,” she said. “I love how they tie in the past and the present and I love how they can be useful. Don’t we all wish we could ask for help from the other side?”

But, of course, she continues, ghosts can’t always express themselves any better than their human counterparts.

This article originally appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times.

Windy City Blues

In her fun very readable Windy City Blues (Berkley 2017; $16), Chicago author Renee Rosen again takes another slice of the city’s history and turns it into a compelling read.

Rosen, who plumbs Chicago’s history to write such books as Dollface, her novel about flappers and gangers like Al Capone, and What the Lady Wants which recounts the affair between department store magnate Marshall Field and his socialite neighbor, says she and her publisher were racking their brains for her next book which encompassed Chicago history.

“She suggested the blues,” says Rosen, who didn’t have much interest in the subject.

But Rosen was game and started her typical uber-intensive research.

“When I discovered the Chess brothers, who founded Chess Records, I fell in love,” she says, noting that when researching she was surprised about how much she didn’t know about the subject despite her immersion in Chicago history for her previous books. “I thought this is a story.”

“As part of my research, I drove the Blues Highway from New Orleans to Chicago,” she says. “I also met with Willie Dixon’s grandson and with Chess family members.”

Combining fact and fiction, Rosen’s story follows heroine Leeba Groski, who struggling to fit in, has always found consolation in music. When her neighbor Leonard Chess offers her a job at his new Chicago Blues label, she sees this as an opportunity to finally fit in. Leeba starts by answering phones and filing but it soon becomes much more than that as she discovers her own talents as a song writer and also begins not only to fall in love with the music industry but also with Red Dupree, a black blues guitarist.

Windy City Blues was recently selected for Chicago’s One Book project, a program designed to engage diverse groups of Chicagoans around common themes. Rosen says she is very honored to be a recipient.

“I put my heart and soul into this book,” she says. “I think it’s a story with an important message. In it are lessons of the Civil Rights movement, what it was like for Jews and people of color along with the history of the blues and the role of Jews in bringing the blues to the world. After all, as the saying goes: Blacks + Jews = Blues.”

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