It’s October! Time to read the horror, right? Right.
Good news! I’ve wasted the bulk of my life reading horror novels, rotted my brain with all manner of graphic violence, sacrificed everything to sail across a sea of trash.
Along the way I found some gems. (They were covered in blood and/or slime, but I mean to share them anyway.)
So here they are: the seven horror novels (or novellas) you must read before you kill or die or both.
The Events at Poroth Farm by T.E.D. Klein – This is probably my favorite horror story of all time. It’s creepy, mysterious, funny, and the tension builds and builds until the end. I read it in one sitting. Klein is a tremendous writer, even if he hasn’t published anything in years. Most of his stuff is out print, but you can get this story for $0.99 as part of this collection. There is also a much longer novel based on this novella, The Ceremonies, and it’s very good as well.
The Amulet by Michael McDowell – McDowell is most famous for writing Beetlejuice, but before he got into screenplays, he wrote a lot of great horror prose in the 80’s. The Amulet is his darkest and my favorite. Relentlessly grim. I said “oh no!” out loud more than once while reading this, and I felt weird horror flutters deep in the cockles of my body. Pretty sweet.
Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon – I’ve talked about Harvest Home before, and every time I bring it up, there’s a big response. I think that’s pretty remarkable for a horror novel that predates Stephen King and was out of print for quite a few years. Though Tryon died in 1991, he touched something dark and primal here, something that sticks with the people who read it. I think it always will.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – Here’s a psychological creeper for you creeps. Shirley Jackson brings the unsettling thunder, and this is my favorite of hers.
The Stand by Stephen King – King’s post-apocalyptic epic captured the dickens out of my imagination, and I know I’m not alone. It was pretty instrumental as far as setting me on the path to writing weird stuff, too. Life changer.
The Collector by John Fowles – This book harbors so much genuine darkness that actual serial killers have used it like a guide book. Fowles went on to be a literary star writing less shocking stuff, but his creepy first book is the one I can’t get over.
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons – Another non-horror writer who dabbled in the darkness while it was popular, Siddons wrote one of the best haunted house stories ever. Works on multiple levels, too.