Creepy reads for the Halloween season: good horror authors, old & new.

UPDATED FOR THE 2014 SEASON

halloween countdown 7

At Halloween-time, there are few activities more satisfying than falling whole-heartedly into a scary book. Reading opportunities abound:

  • read during the last couple of trips to the cabin, because the lake turns chilly as soon as the earlier dusk sets in
  • take your lunch hour at a park when the leaves are turning, the sun is warm, and the breeze is cool
  • curl up with a mug of your favorite hot beverage and a blanket during one of the season’s last thundery evenings
  • steal a chapter or two while waiting for the kid’s band / dance / karate lessons to end
  • stay up too late so you can get through just one more chapter

*****

I don’t read enough.

I used to. From the time I could pick up a book until my first child started walking, I was voracious. I’m well-versed in at least one era of horrorbooks. (See my favorite titles, from my favorite old-school writers, at the end of this post.)

Once my adulthood began in earnest, though, my time became scarce. I read as much as I could but I had to spend some time on more instructional things – books on parenting, budgeting, cooking, raising chickens, staying sane, etc. I lost track of most of the developments in my preferred genre. When I had time for fiction, the great temptation was to re-read old favorites, and seek out titles I may have missed from my stable of tried and true authors.

That’s not to say I missed out on EVERYTHING in those years, I managed to stumble across authors like Scott Nicholson, Poppy Z. Brite and some kid named Joe Hill.

(Yes, that’s how out of touch I was — I didn’t KNOW Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son until after I bought Heart-Shaped Box. I was pleased, however, that I figured it out myself. I clearly remember getting really excited about this new writer within the space of the first chapter. I thought, Wow … this is like a modern King. I turned to the book jacket to read about the author and thought, Wow. He even looks a little like Constant Writer. Actually, he looks A LOT like him … and he’s from ‘New England’. Beat. Beat. OMG!!!)

It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve made an effort to come up to speed on what’s going on in the horror world. What I’m seeing in the genre looks promising.

I think it’s harder to find new authors than it once was though. It doesn’t help that many bookstores have done away with the horror section. (Damn you, Barnes & Noble.) It doesn’t help that some of the horror imprints I used to count on have disappeared. (Right now I’m relying heavily on Samhain Horror.) In truth, I find Amazon overwhelming, and I’m not a big fan of the self-publishing craze. (I know there’s good stuff out there, it’s just hard to separate from the chaff … and I’ve found some awful chaff in the wilds of Amazon.) For all these reasons, I thought it might be helpful to tell you what I have found that I like.

Full disclosure: I “know” the new authors I’m about to list. There are no reviews of specific novels below. I can’t publicly critique the work of people I’ve come to think of as friends. Rest assured, If they are here, I like their work. This is simply a round up of resources for readers who are ready to try someone new. I’m comfortable telling you these guys are worth checking into. I’ll let you know which books I’ve read and show you where you can get a free sample or two of the author’s work – whether that be an ebook, a published short, an audio clip, or an outstanding blog post.

Hunter Shea:

 

Hunter is the first author I connected with here in the blogosphere, and I did it before I read any of his work. I wrote a whole post about stalking him. (I’m more subtle about that kind of behavior now. But, if you think I’m trailing you, I probably am.) He was amazing to me, and I’m grateful for his support and encouragement. I was terribly relieved when it turned out he can really write too.

I’ve read:  Forest of ShadowsSinister Entity, Asylum Scrawls, The Waiting, The Montauk Monster

Sample his work here:  The Graveyard Speaks is avaiable as a free ebook download. (This is a short story that bridges time between Forest of Shadows & Sinister Entity, but it’s a fine stand-alone.)

UPDATE: I told you a year ago to keep an eye on this guy. Not only is he prolific, he’s getting better with every book. The Montauk Monster, for example, was named one of the best reads of the summer by Publisher’s Weekly:

This wholly enthralling hulk of a summer beach read is redolent of sunscreen and nostalgia, recalling mass market horror tales of yore by John Saul, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley.” — Publishers Weekly — Voted one of the best reads of summer!

His latest release is Hell Hole.

Extra fun:

I’ve had the opportunity to interview Hunter about, well about all sorts of stuff, this year. Have a listen:

Hunter and his friend Jack Campisi do a great little video podcast about all things horror. Links to all episodes can be found here: Monster Men

 

monster-men-logo

*****

Brad C. Hodson

I’ve read: Darling

book cover hodson darling

Sample his work here: Read the first chapter of Darling at his blog.

And/or, listen to one of Brad’s short stories – Breathe – read by John Shirley, on the podcast Tales to Terrify. (I’ll be getting back to that little gem in another post.) In the player available on the linked page, Breathe starts at approx 10:20 and continues to approx 17:45.

Extra fun: I think the book trailer counts.

*****

Jonathan Janz

I’ve read: The SorrowsThe Darkest Lullaby, Castle of Sorrows

Sample his work here: Night Terrors ( Part one of the five-part serial novel, Savage Species), available as a free ebook download.

UPDATE: Next up for me is Dust Devils:

Beware when the vampires come to town.

When traveling actors recruited his wife for a plum role, Cody Wilson had no idea they would murder her. Twelve-year-old Willet Black was just as devastated the night the fiends slaughtered everyone he loved. Now Cody and Willet are bent on revenge, but neither of them suspects what they’re really up against.

For the actors are vampires. Their thirst for human blood is insatiable. Even if word of their atrocities were to spread, it would take an army to oppose them. But it is 1885 in the wilds of New Mexico, and there is no help for Cody and Willet. The two must battle the vampires—alone—or die trying.

Extra fun: The finest Halloween blog post I’ve read yet: Born in Halloween. If you click on no other link in this post, click this one. This post is how I knew I needed to find and read his novels.

*****

Mitch Lavender

As far as I know, Mitch has confined himself to short stories so far, but I think he’s a comer.

I’ve read: Untrue Stories, Volume One – It Didn’t Happen This Way

Sample his work here: Mitch makes many of his short stories available at his blog. One of my favorites is A Kiss of Thorns

Extra fun: Mitch offers an amazing selection of wallpapers for writers at his blog too.

*****

This Halloween, give a thought to these new authors and give them a chance. I suspect you’re going to be glad you did … now and in a few years.

That said, there’s nothing wrong in turning to one of the established masters. I will be re-reading some of these this fall … because I have to. The following list of great horror is nowhere near all-inclusive. I’m forcing myself to choose ONE book from my favorite 13 authors. For me, this is canon:

  1. Stephen King – IT
  2. Robert McCammon – Swan Song
  3. Dan Simmons – Summer of Night
  4. John Saul – Suffer the Children
  5. Poppy Z. Brite – Lost Souls
  6. Dean Koontz – Odd Thomas
  7. Peter Straub – Ghost Story
  8. Robert Bloch – Psycho
  9. Clive Barker – Cabal
  10. Richard Matheson – Hell House
  11. Anne Rice – The Witching Hour
  12. Shirley Jackson – The Haunting Of Hill House
  13. Joe Hill – Heart-Shaped Box

Anything above should satisfy your taste for horror this fall, but if you want something truly evocative of the Halloween season, I’d suggest:

book something

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

book harvest home

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

****

HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN QUICK LINKS:

2014: Countdown-to-Halloween Ideas & Checklist

2014: The Paranormalist’s 1st Annual Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt

FOR MORE HALLOWEEN COUNTDOWN ARTICLES VISIT THE MAIN INDEX

halloween countdown main fridays

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40 Comments on “Creepy reads for the Halloween season: good horror authors, old & new.”

  1. Pooka says:

    I have in my possession what appears to be a first-run paperback copy of Swan Song. Original cover, print date matches publishing date, and so on. It’s beat up, it’s tattered, it’s oh so musty. So in other words, it’s loved loved loved. How does a 27 year old come to possess a book such as this? Simple: She slides the book from its home on the family bookshelf as a tween, voraciously devours its contents, moves it to her personal bookshelf after that, and then years later absconds with it to North Carolina, her victory complete.

    Sorry, Mom. (But not really.)

  2. pilgrim52 says:

    Great list of books. I, too, am not a fan of the self-published. Just more crap to wade through. I wonder if getting rid of the Horror section was a move to make the SciFi/Fantasy aisle bigger!! We all know that most of those authors need an editor, badly!! (Robin Hobb I’m talking to you!) It’s difficult to find good horror although there will never be another Thomas Tryon! Horror films have made it much more difficult to scare people with printed matter. Visual images are so engrained in our consciousness. Your list of goodies include my favorites: Swan Song, It (although ‘Salem’s Lot scared me more), and Harvest Home. The Other by Tryon is also deeply disturbing. I think the vampire craze needs to die down (as well as zombies) and writers need to get more creative with their scare tactics. Thanks for the great list!

  3. What a fabulous post! Thank you so much for including me, and thank you also for giving me some new titles to check out. 🙂

  4. Thanks for including my story, Renee, and thanks for the other great recommendations.

  5. Great suggestions, Renee. I’ve read most of Clive Barker and Steven King, so I must try a few of the others.

    I have also read Mitch Lavender’s stories as I’ve had the opportunity to work on a writing project with him in the past via an online writing group based here in Ireland and really love how he weaves a tale.

    I’ve seen some extracts from a novel he’s working on at the minute which promises to be well worth a read, but no doubt you’ll hear about that in due course.

    marion

    @Pilgrim52 – Zombies? Die?! 🙂

  6. Hunter Shea says:

    Renae, you can stalk me any time! 🙂 Can’t thank you enough for including my books and my Monster Men podcast. Just trying to keep it real here in Horror Central where the beast under your bed is real and that caller is absolutely in the house!

  7. Thanks for the inclusion, Renae! This is a fantastic list and I’m honored to be a part of it.

    I just finished that exact copy of CABAL, btw! Great novella. I’m reading through the rest of the novellas in there now.

    Also nice to see HELL HOUSE and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Those are two of my favorites. Both were big influences on DARLING.

    • You’e welcome, Brad.

      I’m not surprised to learn you’re a fan of Hell House and The Haunting of Hill House, I was able to see the influence in Darling.

      I tried to find the copies I actually owned or read – remembered stories come clearer to me when I have that original art work to trigger the memories. I have to say, the cover of Darling is certainly clear in my mind. Oh, hey, I didn’t post a pic of the cover! I’ll fix that. Got all sidetracked by that flashy book trailer 🙂

  8. I enjoyed “Heart Shaped Box,” but I went in knowing Joe Hill was Stephen King’s son. Tara read another of his books – I can’t remember which – and said it was even better.

  9. Thank you for this post. I’ll definitely have to check out some of these authors.

  10. Great selection of books and stories. I finished ‘Horns’ by Joe Hill a few months ago and have since started (but never finished) several self published books. It is really difficult these days to find good authors with all the self published selections available on Amazon.

  11. Hi Renae, I have been trying to leave comments on some of your posts, but the site doesn’t seem to want to take it. So this comment is just a TEST. Sorry! 🙂

  12. Yay! My commnet made it in. Now I can tell you that I appreciate the list on books you’ve suggested here. Thank you! 🙂

  13. Reblogged this on Jonathan Janz and commented:
    The Paranormalist Prepares Us for Halloween!

  14. Great post. What a goldmine. I posted it on the Monster Men Facebook page. (Thanks for the mention, BTW!) We’d love to have you on the show sometime soon. You are the Queen of Halloween, after all.


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