Thursday, 13 October 2016

Scary, Scary Monster Books - October (AKA Hallowe'en Month) Recommencations

I have to say that my reading and Blogging has taken a bit of a tumble as we get into October. I find myself drawn to the US Election (and I'm a Canadian!!!). I know he has many, many supporters, but the thought of Donald J. Trump becoming President of the United States of America scares the bejeebers out of me. I know that Mrs. Clinton isn't perfect by any means, but every thing that comes out of Trump's mouth, when he isn't sniffing, is a lie or contradiction from something he said previously. My wife says that the sniffing is a 'tell', like in poker when you have a twitch that gives away your hand. In this case, his snorting might be a 'tell' that he is lying.

Anyway, I find myself watching the debates, reading everything I can about the election, much to the detriment of my normal activities. I think I'm driving the missus a bit bonkers. ;0) So October might be a scarier month than we realise, depending on how the election in November turns out. Cold chills keep running down my back.

So, anyway, since I'm in that sort of a mood, I thought I'd do a BLog entry on some horror books I've enjoyed. Horror isn't my favourite genre, probably because they SCARE me!! But I have enjoyed horror stories in the past. I read everything by Stephen King at one time. He has the ability to find those things that infest your mind and terrify you and to write about them so you feel the horror. It's been a long time, however, since I read anything by King. I kind of got overloaded with his writing. I did receive one of his later books for Xmas a couple of years back, that being Under the Dome. I started it as part of the October Spooktacular challenge that one of my Goodread's book groups set up and I am enjoying it very much. I don't know yet if it falls under Horror or under Science Fiction, but more to follow on that. I'm only half way through. Oh yes, that's another thing about King, he can be wordy.

If you'd like a recommendation for a scary King book or two, well, let's see. Above are photos of two books, one written under King's pseudonym, Richard Bachman, The Regulators and the other as King, Desperation. Unique stories as they contain the same characters, put into a dangerous, scary situation, with different results. Pet Sematary, which was made into a relatively awful movie, was one of his scariest, a page turner and pulse pounder. A few others might be Christine, haunted car, Carrie, girl with powers who seeks revenge, Cujo, rabid dog, It, scary clown (how appropriate this month with all the purported sightings of scary clowns and Salem's Lot, a vampire story. And those are just a few. King didn't just write horror, but it is one of his specialities.

I've tried Dean Koontz in the past but, of the few stories I tried, I found him somewhat forgettable. In fact, I would pick up a book and for the life of me, couldn't remember if I'd read the story or not. A couple highlights though. You might like to try Phantoms, about a haunted town or Watchers, about genetically enhanced creatures. At the moment, I've been buying a few of his Odd Thomas series as I've heard good things about the books. Time to give Mr. Koontz another try.

A series I started back when I lived in Ottawa is that featuring Anita Blake,Vampire Hunter by Laurell K. Hamilton. At one time I couldn't get enough of them. Each book was scarier and more graphic than the last. They are really worth a try. Once I had to start waiting a year or so for the next book, I found that my interests had already been turned in another direction. I do have a couple still sitting on my bookshelf that I will get around to reading. I may find my interest rekindled. Who knows. :) The first book in this series is Guilty Pleasures.

A similar series to the Laurell Hamilton books is one written by Charlaine Harris, the Sookie Stackhouse books. I always found the stories to be a little like Anita Blake light, but they were still entertaining. The series was turned into a fascinating, scary, gritty, sexy TV series on HBO by the name of True Blood. The first book in this series is Dead Until Dark.

There are other series I'll mention, without any other detail, that you might like to try:
- Tanya Huff's Blood Books, starting with Blood Price
- P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files, starting with Bloodlist
- Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, starting with Interview with a Vampire. I kind of got tired of this series, but of those I read, my favourite was The Tale of the Body Thief.

So, let's see a few others that you might like to consider...

Richard Brautigan, The Hawkline Monster. I found this book on one of my trips to Victoria with the missus. The story looked kind of neat and I think I was looking for a book to satisfy a Western challenge. Yup, this is a combination Western meets Horror. Neat story, totally different.  This is the synopsis.

"The time is 1902, the setting eastern Oregon. Magic Child, a fifteen-year-old Indian girl, wanders into the wrong whorehouse looking for the right men to kill the monster that lives in the ice caves under the basement of Miss Hawkline's yellow house. What follows is a series of wild, witty, and bizarre encounters. The book was originally published in 1974."

Max Brooks, World War Z. I found this book purely by chance when I was stationed down in Victoria back in 2007, while wandering through Munro's Books. It looked weirdly interesting and I'd never really read any zombie-type books before that. Who knew that after this zombie books, movies and TV shows would be everywhere. You probably know the story if you've seen the movie based on the book, well, loosely that is. The book is more of a documentary, explaining how the zombie apocalypse took place, what happened to the earth and how mankind was coping with the aftermath. It focuses on 4 or 5 people in various parts of the Earth and their particular stories, while, at the same time, generally highlighting the whole situation. Excellent book, I must say. Below is a brief synopsis of the book.

"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, travelled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. "World War Z" is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War."

Nick Cutter, The Troop and The Deep. In the past couple of years I've read two of Canadian Nick Cutter's horror entries. I think you might classify them as right of Stephen King, especially The Troop, which I preferred of the two. The books are very graphic and gruesome, sometimes cringe-worthy, but both were very different and interesting.

The Troop is set in Prince Edward Island (PEI) and follows a troop of Scouts and their leader as they journey to an isolated island off the coast of PEI for a weekend of roughing it in the bush. Unbeknownst to them, another individual, an escapee from some sort of germ experimentation, also lands on the island, infecting some and leaving the others to try and survive the encounter. Kind of like Lord of the Flies to the extreme. Throw in the Canadian Navy trying to blockade the island to prevent anyone else getting infected and you've got a taut, exciting horror thriller.

The Deep is about a plague that is killing off mankind. A group of scientists, living in an underwater laboratory in the Pacific may have found a cure. But the cure also seems to have side effects, disastrous side effects. We follow these people around the claustrophobic environment on the ocean's floor as they hallucinate (maybe) and try not to be killed by the others. Creepy and scary.

James Herbert, The Secret of Crickley Hall. I first heard about this book when the missus and I watched and enjoyed the BBC drama based on the book. It is in the best of traditions of the classic ghost story. A family, suffering from the disappearance of their youngest child, move to another area of England to try and adjust to the loss and maybe get a new start. Unfortunately, the house has issues of its own, yup, it's haunted. We voyage back to many years before when the home was a home for orphan children. The owner has issues and punishes these children for no reason, except his own deep seated issues. He wants the Caleigh's other children, two girls, to join the other trapped spirits. Excellent, tense, scary story.

I have purchased another of Herbert's horror stories (see picture above the discussion on Dean Koontz). The Fog was written in 1975 and was Herbert's second book. Briefly, it is about a deadly fog that drives its victims insane when they come into contact with it. It has nothing to do with the John Carpenter movie of the same name. It is on my TBR shelf awaiting my attention.

Susan Hill, The Woman in Black and The Mist in the Mirror. Hill is also known for writing detective mysteries but The Woman in Black and The Mist in the Mirror are excellent ghost stories. Of the two, I preferred The Woman in Black. I bought the book because we'd watched the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and it was excellent; moody, spooky and at times quite scary. While the book wasn't out and out scary, it also had a spooky atmosphere that often had me holding my breath.

For those that don't know it, this is the synopsis for The Woman in Black.

"Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor in London, is summoned to Crythin Gifford to attend the funeral of Mrs. Alice Drablow, and to sort through her papers before returning to London. It is here that Kipps first sees the woman in black and begins to gain an impression of the mystery surrounding her. From the funeral he travels to Eel Marsh House and sees the woman again; he also hears the terrifying sounds on the marsh.

Despite Kipps’s experiences he resolves to spend the night at the house and fulfil his professional duty. It is this night at Eel Marsh House that contains the greatest horror for Kipps. Kipps later discovers the reasons behind the hauntings at Eel Marsh House. The book ends with the woman in black exacting a final, terrible revenge."

The synopsis for The Mist in the Mirror is as below:

For the last twenty years Sir James Monmouth has journeyed all over the globe in the footsteps of his hero, the great pioneering traveller Conrad Vane. In an effort to learn more about Vane's early life--and his own--Sir James sets off for the remote Kittiscar Hall on a cold and rainy winter night. But he soon begins to feel as though something is warning him away at every turn; there are the intense feelings of being watched and the strange apparitions of a sad little boy.

And as he learns more about his hero's past, he discovers that they are only the beginning, for Kittiscar Hall is hiding terrible secret that will bind their lives together in ways he could never have imagined."

Shirley Jackson, The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Bird's Nest. Over the past couple of years, I've read 4 of Shirley Jackson's works. She has a unique perspective on horror. The Lottery was a short story about what appears to be a perfect village, but when you find out about what the lottery is for, it'll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The Haunting of Hill House has been made into at least two very good movies. Jackson does like to delve into the psychology of horror. The stories aren't gruesome but creepy and the characters who people must deal with psychological incidents. Hill House is a living character and affects the minds of the people who visit the house as part of a supernatural experiment. We Have Always Lived in the Castle tells the story of the Blackwood family, in particular Mary Catherine (Merricat), a deeply troubled woman. As the story develops, we find out more and more about incidents in the family's past and about how troubled Merricat actually is. I just recently read The Bird's Nest and it was excellent, being an examination of the multiple personalities of Elizabeth Richmond. I've enjoyed every story from Shirley Jackson. She is well worth attempting.

Ira Levin, Rosemary's Baby. Rosemary's Baby was one of the iconic horror movies, released in 1968. It's a story of demonic possession. I was pleasantly surprised to find this copy of the book. In fact, I really didn't realise that the movie had been based on a book until I found this. I read it this past year and enjoyed immensely. One of my favourites of the year. This is the synopsis of the book.

"Rosemary Woodhouse and her struggling actor-husband Guy move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents. Neighbours Roman and Minnie Castavet soon come nosing around to welcome them and, despite Rosemary's reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises she keeps hearing, her husband starts spending time with them. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Rosemary becomes pregnant and the Castavets start taking a special interest in her welfare.

As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castavets circle is not what it seems."

I loved Levin's matter-of-fact style of presenting the story, all the while making if eerie and spooky. Many of his books have been made into movies; The Boys from Brazil, The Stepford Wives. I have another of his 'movie' books on my shelf ready to read. That book is Sliver.

H.P. Lovecraft, Necronomicon and other books. I won't delve too much into Lovecraft's work. Suffice it to say, I'd heard so much about Lovecraft and have spent a few years searching for his works. At one of our semi-annual Rotary Club book sale, I found a collection of Lovecraft's works, a mix of short stories and novels. I've read three so far and overall have found them to be creepy and nervous-making. I won't say there is lots of action necessarily, but there is a mood that gets under your skin.

Last year, on a visit to Kingston, I found Necronomicon at one of Kingston's used book stores. It is a collection of Lovecraft's short stories and novels. I read it this past year and enjoyed very much. I think Lovecraft might not be to everyone's taste but he does create excellent moods and atmospheres in his stories and they can leave you feeling creeped out. Not necessarily horrifying but effective nonetheless.

Jonathan Maberry, Ghost Road Blues. Quite a few members of one of my Goodreads reading groups have mentioned the work of Jonathan Maberry. I've searched my local book stores for the past couple of years, trying to find one of his books and this was the first that I managed to locate. It is the first book in the Pine Deep trilogy, a very gruesome, creepy, well-crafted horror story. This is the synopsis.

"The cozy little town of Pine Deep buried the horrors of its past a long time ago. Thirty years have gone by since the darkness descended and the Black Harvest began, a time when a serial killer sheared a bloody swath through the quiet Pennsylvania village. The evil that once coursed through Pine Deep has been replaced by cheerful tourists getting ready to enjoy the country's largest Halloween celebration in what is now called "The Spookiest Town in America."

It Just Grows Stronger

But then--a month before Halloween--it begins. Unspeakably desecrated bodies. Inexplicable insanity. And an ancient evil walking the streets, drawing in those who would fall to their own demons and seeking to shred the very soul of this rapidly fracturing community. Yes, the residents of Pine Deep have drawn together and faced a killer before. But this time, evil has many faces--and the lust and will to rule the earth. This struggle will be epic."

I've since ordered a copy of the first book in the Joe Ledger series, Patient Zero, which seems to be his most popular series. As I understand it, it is about a Special Ops team that is sent to combat a species of super zombies created by a pathogen. Sounds interesting.

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is one of the classics of the horror genre. I found a 1930 Bodley hard cover edition back in 2010 and it was a pleasure to read it. It had that old book smell and had some wonderful illustrations within. It's one of those books you should read if you want to explore the horror genre and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the story.

Bram Stoker, The Jewel of the Seven Stars. I've always thought, for some reason, that Bram Stoker had only ever written Dracula. Of course, Stoker was actually quite prolific. One of my Goodreads acquaintances read The Jewel of the Seven Stars and quite liked it. So rather than start with the original classic, I thought I might try and get a copy of this instead. It's probably the first 'mummy' book and very interesting. Not terrifying necessarily but an enjoyable read anyway. This is the synopsis.

"Someone has seized the fabled Jewel of Seven Stars from the mummy's grip, and the ancient Egyptian queen Tera has risen from her tomb to take it back - at any cost! This thrilling tale of adventure and ritual magic recounts a supernatural struggle in which archaeologists, grave robbers, and anyone else who attempts to possess the Jewel meet a mysterious, violent fate.
Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, wrote this enthralling novel of possession, reincarnation, and an ancient curse at the peak of the Victorian fascination with Egyptology. His spellbinding blend of Eastern lore and classic horror fiction formed the template for the plots of dozens of mummy movies. This edition features the original ending as it appeared in the 1903 publication, a gripping conclusion that was censored in subsequent printings and long unavailable."

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain and The Fall. One of the latest books about the vampire mythology. It consist of three books, of which I've read the first two. It's also been made into a successful TV series on FX TV. I've enjoyed the first two books so far. They are easy reads and present a different look at what makes a vampire. Well worth taking a look at.

and finally....

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. This is another of the classics of the genre, the story of a man who stops himself from ageing by painting his soul into a painting that he hides in a dark room. The portrait ages while his body always stays young. Boredom makes him delve deeper and deeper into the dark arts and activities. It wasn't what I expected but I enjoyed anyway and was glad to have checked out this story.

So there you have it. If you're looking at exploring horror for Halloween month, maybe one of these might pique your interest.

Next entry I think I might start picking a book a day/ week / month to recommend, from my list of some of my favourite books. Probably a bit self-indulgent, but hey, what can I say. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails