Welcome to McGrave's! We've been expecting you. You have wandered into the world of Steve Bryant's spooky middle-grade novel novel McGrave's Hotel. Here you will find an excerpt, interviews, links to the book's blog tour, reviews, a magic trick, shopping options, and a few bits about the author. You are welcome to stay ... forever!

Oops! Attention. My novels have been officially out of print since April 2018. The web site you are reading chronicles what they were like, and I hope that you can persevere and find copies. They will reward you.


James Elliott, almost twelve, is a bellhop at McGrave’s, the most haunted hotel in NYC. On one harrowing night in 1936, James and his new best friend, Fawn, deal with three sets of most troublesome guests, surviving a death-defying rooftop battle with monsters and Nazis. But there is a catch. Fawn is the daughter of Death himself, and “Dad” has insisted that James not keep Fawn out too late or expose her to any danger. Oops! We join the two in progress as they face the music:

From outside the door to Death’s penthouse suite, standing in that dismal corridor of despair and regret, James and Fawn could hear what sounded like an intense thunderstorm. The floor shook from the gigantic rumbles emerging from the room, not from any storm, but from the storm preceding Noah’s flood, fierce end-of-the-world cracks of anger and discontent.

Neither wanted to knock on the door and face the consequences. They both stared straight ahead. Fawn’s shoes and dress were still sticky from her being wrapped up as a spider’s midnight snack.

“I had the best time tonight, James,” she said. “I want you to know. I seldom have a nice time anywhere. But tonight, wow. I had a lovely dinner with a boy in uniform. I watched you scold a second-rate Casanova. I helped you find a lost mummy and put her back together. I jumped into some misty afterworld with you. I saw ghosts and vampires. I was chased and almost eaten by two insane spider monsters. I got to see you set a Zeppelin on fire. You really know how to show a girl a good time.”

“I’ve broken a promise to Death,” James said. “You, fortunately, are safe except for a well-deserved scolding. I, unfortunately, am doomed.”

He had to get it over with, so he reached forward and knocked on the door.

As the door opened to Mr. Wu’s touch, the thunderclaps ceased instantly. The silence was almost more frightening than the noise.

Mr. Wu nodded briefly to them.

“Master James, Miss Fawn,” he said. “Dinner is concluded?”

“Uh, yes, sir,” James said.

“Master James, Miss Fawn’s father would like to speak to you, please.”

“Yes, I thought he might,” said James.

Mr. Wu directed James into the master bedchamber.

YOUR ROOM IS READY -- McGrave's Hotel is Steve Bryant's second middle-grade novel from Month9books ("Speculative fiction for teens and tweens ... where nothing is as it seems"). To celebrate the publication of McGrave's Hotel, Steve welcomes back zombie broadcaster Gus Grime from radio station WZMB. Gus recently appeared among the gravestones and cenotaphs of a Bloomington, Indiana, cemetery to interview Steve, and the transcript follows.

Happiness is a new ghost story.

GG: Hello, afterworld. I am on the air once again with Steve Bryant, author of Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show and his new book, McGrave's Hotel. Lucas was the surprise hit among the undead in 2015. Tell me, Steve, is McGrave's Hotel a sequel?

Steve: No, not really. There are similarities, but McGrave's is more a straightforward adventure tale. For those old enough to spot the inspiration (and I don't expect this of my young readers or their parents), McGrave's Hotel is a takeoff on the Academy Award-winning movie Grand Hotel. That is, it's a story about a single night in a large hotel in which some characters interact and others don't. In both stories a narrator proclaims that "nothing ever happens." In truth, something extraordinary happens every night. Which you might expect at McGrave's, because it is haunted. It caters to ghosts, vampires, werewolves, and the like. It's set in New York City in 1936, in the dark days before World War II.

GG: I'm all a-tingle. What is the story?

Steve: My young hero is James Elliott, almost twelve years old, a bellhop at McGrave's ever since his parents were killed on a spying mission into Nazi Germany. James craves a goodbye message from his parents, deals with three sets of troublesome guests (a ham actor auditioning actresses for Dracula, Egyptian museum officials whose priceless mummy vanishes, and a bridegroom whose head goes missing), and strikes up a romance with none other than Death's daughter, Fawn. James and Fawn risk death themselves as they resolve the guest situations and team against monsters and Nazis in a climactic rooftop battle.

GG: Busy boy! So it's a love story too?

Steve: As was Lucas. All my books, one way or another, are about young love.

GG: You said that there were similarities with Lucas Mackenzie. Can you elaborate?

Steve: Anyone who enjoys Lucas should enjoy McGrave's. Although not a sequel, McGrave's is related in that a repertory company of actors could play the lead roles in both novels. Lucas and James share similar ages and temperaments. Each boy has special skills. Each boy is "orphaned." Each craves communication with family on the other side of the life-death divide. Each has a love interest that is impossible. Each encounters hostile vampires. Each "grows" at the end of the story. Then there are totally unexpected coincidences. Each book features triplets. Each has animated skeletons. Each has someone dressed in black and white stripes.

GG: Weird. Most of the main characters in Lucas Mackenzie were ghosts. Are the main characters in McGrave's dead as well?

Can a magic trick inspire a story character?

Steve: Oh, no. James is a normal, living boy, as are the other bellhops. The night manager, Martin Nash; his assistant and psychic, Miriam Charles; the hotel's medical advisor, Dr. Otto; the newspaperman, Walter Quinn; and three sets of guests--all are quite alive. We can't quite say the same about Death himself; his daughter, Fawn; or the Beaumonts, a pair of society ghosts who dance at McGrave's nightly. And have I mentioned the problem of a mutant Nazi spider as big as a desk? Alas, she seems to have it in for James and Fawn. Spoiler alert: not everyone survives the night.

GG: Ah, I love arachnids. What inspired you to write this story of love, death, and spiders?

Steve: It's a tribute to my parents, who lived through the big band era of dining and dancing and danger played out in hotels and night clubs. As I mention in the book, I also found inspiration at the movies, especially the Saturday matinees of my childhood. I particularly loved the classic black and white horror films that featured multiple monsters, sometimes Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, and the Wolf Man all in the same feature. It is no wonder that I would one day write a story that contained vampires, mummies, oversized spiders, and assorted ghosts and ghoulies. I hope everyone has as much Saturday-afternoon-type fun reading it as I did writing it.

GG: I'm sure we will. Um, this cemetery is lovely after midnight, don't you think? Care to lie down and rest your eyes?

Steve: You zombies are such kidders! Um, thank you for having me on your program again. I'll be going now.

Links to additional visits with Steve Bryant and McGrave's Hotel:

Chapter by Chapter / Guest post: Steve's Seven Things I Now Know About Writing

Books, Dreams, Life/ review

W Momma Readers Nook/ Guest post: Steve's Top 10 Spooky Books

Never Too Many to Read/ excerpt

With Love for Books/ review

Lisa's Loves/ Guest post: Steve's world for McGrave's Hotel

Christy's Cozy Corners/ review

Funky Fun Horror with Best Characters Since Harry Potter

Steve Bryant’s latest book, “McGrave’s Hotel” is a fun, engaging read for adults and kids. I bought this book from Amazon and gave it to a 12 year old friend and who said “it’s great!” and recommends it for other kids his age. Both boys and girls alike will love this book.

The Saturday afternoon horror show setting of McGrave’s Hotel with its complement of skeletons, spiders, ghosts and ghouls provides spooky entertainment from the wine cellar to the penthouse. I enjoyed getting acquainted with the two young lead characters, James and Fawn. James was trained as a spy by his parents and is deeply sad from their untimely deaths at the hands of the Nazis. His new friend, Fawn, has unusual space-time abilities and suffers from the ultimate embarrassing parent issue since her father is Death.

Not all the characters that frequent McGrave’s Hotel are nasty. There is the lovely spiritualist, the kindly night manager, the romantic ghost couple, the misguided detective and the observant gumshoe, among others. Besides the well-drawn characters, for me part of the fun was the bits of history and thought provoking facts woven into the story. Somehow Bryant did it in a way that made the story even more intriguing and not at all dry. McGrave’s Hotel is an enjoyable second book from Steve Bryant in the Spine-Tingling genre for 9-12 year olds. It follows the trend of his previous book, “Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show” in incorporating funky horror with captivating characters. This is a switch from Bryant’s earlier non-fiction books for magicians and I hope there will be more.
— Debra Gookin


On the shelf at Barnes and Noble.

Set in 1936, this is mainly the story of James Elliott, the best bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, even though he is not yet 12 years old. He’s been at the hotel for a year, ever since his parents died while on a spy mission in Nazi Germany. In that time, he has had to deal with a lot of interesting and difficult guests, but none, one gets the feeling, as bothersome as some of those who stay on this particular night.

James and his new friend Fawn jump from one dangerous exploit to another over the course of the evening and well into the early hours of the morning. He is quite resourceful and quick-witted, however, and enjoys a host of helpful friends and acquaintances, both old and new. Which is a good thing, especially when they must out-maneuver Nazis, various monsters and different manifestations of the undead.

This is a solidly middle-grade book, with some spooks and frights and even a death or two, but nothing to graphic or violent. And there is nothing untoward either, other than some rather easily averted unwanted advances by a would-be Lothario, and a rather chaste kiss. It is definitely suitable for even younger middle-grade kids, but entertaining enough for adults and even teens.

I was afraid that this book might be extremely campy and over-the-top, but it was refreshingly down to earth. Much like James, it did not take itself too seriously, presenting the story in a very down-to-earth way, with subtle humor expertly voiced on many occasions.

The story was not at all what I had expected. It was full of interesting twists and turns that I would not have expected. Which is generally not something much enjoyed (at least by us older readers) in a middle-grade book. Overall, a charming adventure that I highly recommend to just about any age reader.

This tale has a definite ending point that is more than sufficient for a stand-alone work. However, McGrave’s Hotel would definitely make a wonderful setting for future installments, complete with a cast of delightful characters. I certainly hope there are more volumes forthcoming, and more stories about James to be told.
— Jen Lapa

I know I’ve said it before, but I love Middle Grade books when they are well-written. McGrave’s Hotel is one of those books! It is so much fun, and your middle grade reader (and you) will love all of the quirky, spooky characters that stay at McGrave’s Hotel.

James is almost twelve years old and lives at McGrave’s Hotel. His official job is a bellhop, but he is like part of the family at McGrave’s. The other workers tutor him in his schooling and take care of him like he’s their son. His own parents died on a spy mission, and though he misses them, he has a good life at the hotel.

Every night is an adventure at McGrave’s Hotel, but on this particular night a very special VIP is expected, and as each “important” visitor arrives, James thinks they are the VIP. It turns out that this night is just really full of important visitors! From a movie star to keepers of an Egyptian mummy, the hotel is kept hopping by the antics that follow. But even James couldn’t have expected all of the crazy happenings that night!

I loved all of the characters in this book! They are so well-developed for a middle grade book. The hotel is very vividly described, and though it is the only setting of the story, it makes you really feel like you’ve stepped back in time to visit this crazy hotel.

This is the perfect book for you to share with your child this Halloween season! I highly recommend it! I received a free copy of this book, but it did not influence my opinion in any way nor was I required to leave a review.
— Christy's Cozy CornersS

What the cool kids are reading in London.

Would you like to experience spooky magic? Steve Bryant invites you behind the scenes as he rehearses a card trick. Click on the image below to participate in a spooky YouTube magic trick. (Caution: this may not work on Safari.)

Your room is ready ...

Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show was published by Month9Books and was available in both soft-cover and e-book formats from the following:



About the author:

Steve Bryant is a longtime performer of spooky magic, a veteran author of books of card tricks, and the author of the novels Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show and McGrave's Hotel. In the 90s he founded The Little Egypt Gazette, a 40-page online magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction. The Gazette eventually became a popular blog that has appeared monthly for twenty years along with Steve’s frequent contributions to the country’s two leading magic journals (a recent piece: “Zombieland,” the true story of Dr. Blood’s Zombie Show).

Check out the official Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show web site.

Follow Steve on Twitter.

Little Egypt Magic is the monthly magicians-only web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only. Readers of his novels are welcome to snoop.

Copyright© 2017, 2020 by Steve Bryant