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Halloween Horror--Must Reads

Posted on 2006.10.26 at 04:08
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Halloween looms. My heart pounds with anticipation. These are my top ten horror novel recommendations for the year, written by authors that don’t receive King-sized attention. Don’t get me wrong, I unashamedly bow at the altar of Stephen King, and am devouring "Lisey’s Story" with relish. But there are other voices in the shadows, some perhaps familiar to you, and others not so familiar, that carve out their own rich shadows. Most of these books came out recently, some several years ago, but the common denominator for me is that I read all of them at least once in the past twelve months. So go to your bookstore, pick up one of these dark tales, and I hope you’ll discover a world that leaves you shuddering.

1. Tom Piccirilli-- "A Choir of Ill Children" Gothic, baroque, mesmerizing and grotesque. Faulkner by way of Joel-Peter Witkin. A conjoined triplet at war with his selves, southern degenerates, the beauty of decay in a swamp that stifles body and soul. Lyric prose and some of them most disturbing imagery ever put on the page. Beautiful and writhes like a canker worm in the soul.

2. Albert Sanchez Pinol-- "Cold Skin" Translated from the original Catalan, this grotesque, fever-dream of a horror tale owes much to Lovecraft, in particular "The Dunwich Horror" and "Shadow over Innsmouth" A subarctic lighthouse is under siege by monstrous, amphibian humanoids. The dread builds to a painful level as the story dives into the depths of human and non-human brutality, bestiality, paranoia and madness. For those who like their horror cold and slimy.

3. Brian Keene-- "The Rising" and "City of the Dead" (I’m counting these as one book, because together they are the most incredible Zombie epic since Romero put his gut-chomping undead on celluloid.) Read it and cringe--Keene pulls no punches. He will rip out your heart in the end. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

4. Douglas Clegg --"The Hour Before Dark" Just one of many from a master. Haunting, emotionally engaging, moody and brutal. A wonderful story of the ghosts of guilt and family violence. Discover a smokehouse where unspeakable acts took place, a childhood game that was far from innocent. The very walls of a home on an island in New England are pregnant with dark memories of blood. For a carnival of terror about a cursed South American mummy that flays it’s victims and dances in their skins, treat yourself and also read his recent "The Attraction."

5. Justine Musk "BloodAngel"  Urban Fantasy/Horror of epic scale set in San Francisco and steeped in dream, magic and damnation. Angels, demons, and a strong female lead that uses art as her salvation on the brink of the apocalypse. The first book of a series. Missing Anne Rice now that she’s retired from horror? Here’s a leaner, meaner successor.

6. Ramsey Campbell--"The Overnight" A master of the genre gives an evil little tale of a demonic force that rises up to destroy an overnight crew in a brick and mortar bookstore. Campbell’s own stint working in a Borders in England, led to this vicious tale that will leave you smiling with wicked glee and leaving on a night light. Publisher’s Weekly called it "a dense miasma of disturbing images and shadowy shapes. A high water mark of horror."

7. Michael Marshall --"The Straw Men" Seemingly random acts of brutal violence are connected to a society of enigmatic figures known as the Straw Men. A serial killer, the Upright Man is woven into the web. To say more would spoil the nightmare. Paranoia, thrilling twists, grisly and terrifying. Not for the faint of heart.

8. Max Brooks "World War Z"-- From the creator of "The Zombie Survival Guide," a brilliantly realized story of the war against a Zombie plague, told as a collection of interviews of survivors, from the first physician who treated patient zero, to soldiers and mothers who had to destroy their infected children. The horror lies in the absolute realism of the tale. Brooks successfully captures dozens of different voices and points of view, at time delving into deep social and political satire.

9. Koji Suzuki--"The Ring (Ringu) Horrifying story behind the movies of the same names. The book, translated from the Japanese, is a gritty, surreal dreamscape--a Cronenberg nightmare, with ghosts in the machine, media infection, and a surprising inside view of modern Japanese culture. Far more terrifying and perverse than the films.

10. Michael Laimo-- "Deep In the Darkness" Lovecraft-inspired horror of degenerate tribes that dwell under the hills, worship demons, and enslave a small town and it’s new doctor. Wonderfully realized characters, blood-curdling moments of terror, and a big, nasty surprise at the end.


wicked witch of the west
herkind31 at 2006-10-26 16:08 (UTC) (Link)
you can also go to your nearest library!
wicked witch of the west
herkind31 at 2006-10-26 16:14 (UTC) (Link)
hey, i read one of those, that's surprising since i don't normally read horror.
allaboutm_e at 2006-10-26 17:44 (UTC) (Link)
Some nice suggestions! Way to get into the spirit of the season!
rjcrowtherjr at 2006-10-27 21:26 (UTC) (Link)

Other Halloween suggestions?

Thanks, M-E! I was reading over my list and realized I'd only included one female author in my suggestions. You gave me Shirley Jackson--can you please recommend other contemporary female authors of horror and their books to broaden my horizons?

XO, Rob
C.Rae for Today
rae_too_serious at 2006-10-27 18:56 (UTC) (Link)

Thou shall not fall...

I miss you the most around Halloween, Robula. I watched Hellraiser last night, in your honor. And The Lost Boys the night before. So much for studying for midterms. I can't. There's just too much blood on T.V.

P.S. They're making "I Am Legend" into a movie.
rjcrowtherjr at 2006-10-27 21:55 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thou shall not fall...

Ah, I miss you too! I wish you were here to help me celebrate this year. I'm having a small gathering with the apartment decorated with skulls, lots of candles, red roses, Dia de Los Muertos figures and sugar skulls. Baking pumpkin pies from scratch and dusting off the chains and draperies of red and black velvet.

Hellraiser, in my honor? What a compliment. On the remake note, Clive Barker has just announced there is going to be a remake of Hellraiser, and he's writing the story for it. The studio approached him and told him they were doing it with or without him, and wanted it to be with him. Must have been a sweet deal, and Barker said he'd rather see it done right, if it's being done at all. He starts writing the story (and possibly screenplay?) in early 2007, after he completes his next novel, "The Scarlet Gospels." Good chance Doug Bradley will return to play "Pinhead," but too early to tell, and Clive says it will be a very different movie. Hmm.

As far as the "I Am Legend" movie--this has me worried. It's one of the greatest horror novels of all time, and I tremble at the thought of Will Smith playing the lead role of Neville, driving a 2007 Mustang Shelby GT500 race car no less! (Cringe) What happened to the doctor driving the family station wagon, which in the fantastic movie version "Last Man on Earth" with Vincent Price, looked so much like a hearse, and became a hearse for his own wife? LMOE is one of the most amazing horror films of all time, and one of Price's greatest performances. I fear the new movie will be a Hollywood FUBAR, all flash, action and explosions with muscle cars, testosterone, and wild hoards of CGI zombies. God help us, they'll probably add a rap/metal soundtrack, instead of a score with minor keys, cellos, and lots of pregnant silences. LMOE is such a desolate, lonely story, such a bleak tale of alienation, madness and despair--a very internal story with roots in Mary Shelly's less well known novel, "The Last Man." Sounds like Matheson's masterpiece already has been turned inside out.

Run, don't walk, and watch the Vincent Price version. Happy Halloween, my sexy, dark faerie!
Justine Musk
moschus at 2006-10-27 19:13 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you very much, kind sir! I'm honored to be on such an excellent list (couldn't link to it quick enough).

Several books here I'm picking up ASAP (and ashamed to admit I haven't read yet).
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