An unemployed paranormal investigator, a down-on-his-luck novelist, and a frustrated ghost with literary ambitions of his own. These are the central characters in Paul Guernsey’s latest book, “American Ghost,” which recently received the honor of the 2018 Maine Literary Award in Speculative Fiction.

“The book is at least as much about fiction writing as it is a ghost story,” said Guernsey, Visiting Instructor of Writing at Unity College. “It’s what we call metafictional, in that it’s a story about storytelling. But of course, it also has its scary parts.”

In “American Ghost,” published by Talos Press, the ghost of a college dropout turned small-time criminal named Thumb Rivera haunts rural Maine, searching for clues to the mystery of his own unsolved murder and looking for a way to write his autobiography from beyond the grave. Thumb finds that he can only communicate with the world of the living via Ouija board to Ben, a young spiritual medium. In turn, Ben relays his conversations with Thumb to Fred, a failed novelist turned pig farmer, who then puts ink to paper to tell the story.

“The Maine landscape is pretty much responsible for what this book is in a lot of ways, so to be honored with the Maine Literary Award is just terrific,” said Guernsey.

In addition to two previously published novels, Guernsey has worked as an editor for a fly fishing magazine, a crime reporter for a newspaper in Bridgeport, Conn., and a writer for the Associated Press in Venezuela. He also, uncoincidentally, spent a year raising heritage-breed pigs in Maine.

“I’ve always said: Those who can do, make the best teachers,” said Dr. Melik Peter Khoury, President of Unity College. “Paul is a perfect example of just that. Our students are learning from someone who has worked as an editor for a major magazine, who has worked as a writer in various capacities, and who is now an award-winning author. It gives them an understanding of how the industry works, and a glimpse into the process of someone who is a successful writer and editor.”  

“American Ghost” is currently available in hardcover, and will be available in paperback this October.