George Pinkerton and the Bedtime Ghost

Bruce Coville's Book of Ghosts IIWhen our kids were little, they wanted stories at bedtime. Sometimes we would read to them; other times we'd tell stories from memory, or make up new ones. Sometimes we got requests for specific topics or heroes.

The all-original stories varied in how successful they were, but a couple of characters developed into ongoing series. George the Exciting Calendar, created to meet a specific set of criteria that I suspect Kiri meant as a challenge, was much too bizarre for anyone over the age of six, and the stories about Lily the witch's niece were kind of preachy, but I created another hero who was so popular with both my kids that I began wondering whether some of his adventures might be worth writing up for publication.

That was George Pinkerton, the small-town librarian from Springfield, Indiana who stumbled into a career as a monster hunter.

Some of the George Pinkerton stories were so weird they probably weren't suitable for a general audience -- I've never yet tried to write up "George Pinkerton and the Vampire Field Mice," even though my kids loved it, or "George Pinkerton and the Radioactive Goo," or "George Pinkerton and the Giant Squid," or "George Pinkerton and the Mummies of Chicago." Some of them, though...

About the time I decided I should get serious about selling George Pinkerton stories, Bruce Coville was editing a series of kids' anthologies for Scholastic Books, with titles like Bruce Coville's Book of Monsters and Bruce Coville's Book of Aliens -- six of them in all. I wrote stories for a few of them -- not George Pinkerton stories, just one-off stories. The books did quite well, so the publisher decided to do another series of six, with stunningly original titles like Bruce Coville's Book of Monsters II. Bruce invited back most of the writers from the first series, and this time I finally carried through and wrote up George Pinkerton stories for them. I hoped to sell stories to all six, and establish George as an ongoing series.

Bruce did not buy my stories for all six. He did buy "George Pinkerton and the Bloodsucking Fiend of Brokentree Swamp," to start the series, and followed up with "George Pinkerton and the Space Waffles," and "George Pinkerton and the Bedtime Ghost." He turned down "George Pinkerton and the Chinese Curse" (which was a very weird one; he was right to reject it), and "George Pinkerton's First Case" (a.k.a. "George Pinkerton and the Zombie Invasion"), and I don't think I ever actually finished and submitted "George Pinkerton and the Teatime of the Gods."

It was Bruce Coville who suggested adding a sidekick who would narrate the stories; Billy wasn't in the bedtime stories. He works well, though, so I'm glad to have him.

It should be noted that I didn't always handle bedtime duties, so my wife Julie wound up telling a few George Pinkerton stories of her own. The first one was demanded when I wasn't home and she hadn't yet heard of George Pinkerton, so she got most of the background wrong, but she gave it a good try, and that wound up as "George Pinkerton and the Teatime of the Gods." After that she listened to me tell a couple, and got a much better handle on the character.

"George Pinkerton and the Bedtime Ghost" is unique in that it was not a bedtime story originally -- it's the only one in the series that was created fresh for publication. That was because one of the books I wanted to sell to was Bruce Coville's Book of Ghosts II, and there weren't any George Pinkerton stories about ghosts.

So Julie and I sat down together and plotted this story, then I wrote it up, and Bruce Coville bought it. It's perhaps the gentlest of all the Pinkerton stories, and appeared in Bruce Coville's Book of Ghosts II.

Someday I hope to assemble an entire volume of Pinkerton stories, but it hasn't happened yet, so "George Pinkerton and the Bedtime Ghost" has never been reprinted.