Buckle up, DIVAs! Things are about to get spooky 👻

BY ELA ERTAN, IMAGES BY ELA ERTAN

A.J. West is a queer novelist and award-winning former BBC journalist, voice artist and radio broadcaster from Buckinghamshire. As well as writing for national newspapers and magazines, West has also appeared on national television shows, including BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain and Big Brother.

West came across the disturbing case of William Jackson Crawford and his supernatural investigations whilst working for the BBC in Belfast, Northern Ireland – and from then on, he wanted to be the one to tell this historic story.

A.J. West reading his debut book The Spirit Engineer at the book launch

The Spirit Engineer is set in Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, Belfast is still mourning its dead. High society has become fascinated with spiritualism and attending seances hoping that they will be able to contact spirits of the deceased.

William Jackson Crawford is a sceptical man of science, but one evening, voices come to him as everyone is sitting around the circle – voices which sow the seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him?

Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters which includes Harry Houdini and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Spirit Engineer tells a twisted and sinister tale that will certainly keep readers on the edge of their seats. 

“A fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deception, and power”. – Derren Brown

Hardback copies of The Spirit Engineer

In 2020, West was signed to the respected publisher of historical fiction, Duckworth Books, who describe his writing as gothic, artful and thoroughly researched. 

The book launch for A.J. West’s debut novel was held at Goldsboro Books in London on 6 October, and I was lucky enough to have a chat with West and ask him some questions about his debut novel. 

“I adored this book. Haunting, witty and deeply moving, The Spirit Engineer is surely set to become a gothic classic. I was instantly drawn into the mystery and swept along by the shocking twists and turns. A beautifully written novel”. – Jodie Whittaker

The exterior of Goldsboro Books, where the book launch for The Spirit Engineer was held

Asking West what inspired him to write this book, he says, “I found this story, and I had never heard about it and no one in Belfast that I knew had ever heard about it… I just thought what an extraordinarily sad story it was, and I couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been told before”.

This is West’s debut novel. He shared that he “always wanted to be a novelist. But I was too scared to be one because it was the one thing I wanted to do in life.” He went on to state, “I think sometimes when you know completely that something is your purpose, trying to do it is very frightening, the most frightening thing of all, because if you fail, then you’ve lost your purpose in life. You know, and I felt like that for a long time. So, in a way this story gave me the confidence to try to be a published author. It was such a good story. I thought if I can’t write this story, I shouldn’t be an author, because I don’t deserve to be”.

“I genuinely feel quite blessed that I found this story before other novelists did, because it gave me the confidence I needed to do the one thing in life that I absolutely had to achieve”. 

West notes that The Spirit Engineer is “a very soulful, deep book, but about a rip-roaring dramatic and twisted story.” The Spirit Engineer is available to buy now.

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