By Jacqueline Grima
“My name is Alistair Kingdom and I was born a ghost…”
In one of Her Majesty’s prisons, warders are suddenly astounded to discover they have gained an extra inmate. As chaos ensues, the prison is put into lockdown and the stranger escorted to a Separation and Care Unit, where, through the course of one night, he tells his story to the person he calls ‘Mr Listener’. So begins Hull writer Russ Litten’s novel, Kingdom: part prison drama, part fantasy, part ghost story.
In flashback, Alistair Kingdom wakes up one morning in a dilapidated house with no idea of who he is or how he got there. It is only when he embarks on a journey to find answers that he realises his interaction with the world, and the people in it, isn’t quite as he remembers. Alistair can see others but they can’t see him. He can move from one place to another simply by thinking. In other words, Alistair is a ghost: “I’m talking about a proper ghost here…A spirit…An invisible presence floating in the land of the living.”
On the way to finding out what happened to him, Alistair meets a variety of colourful characters, both dead and alive, and becomes particularly attached to a group of young housemates whose home provides a refuge for him. Not intent to simply be an onlooker, ghostly Alistair soon finds a way of becoming involved with, and even bettering, his friends’ lives, his interaction with them eventually leading him to answer the many questions he has about his own.
Kingdom is a gritty, urban tail of life in the city, the isolated and lost Alistair showing exactly how lonely life ‘on the outside’, with no means of communication, can be. This highly original novel, however, is also a magical tale that will surprise, sadden but, also, inspire its readers. As we join Alistair on his journey, not only around the city, but, also, towards the discovery of who he once was, we laugh and cry along with him, become attached to his friends, jeer at his enemies. Ghostly, uplifting, mysterious and different, Kingdom is certainly worth a read.