Image Credit: Tammy Sparks via booksbonesbuffy.com
It has become a yearly tradition in my household to spend Halloween night reading some seriously creepy fiction. This year I’m humbly offering some suggestions, so that you too may join me in my literary spookfest.
1. The New Black: A Neo-Noir Anthology Edited by Richard Thomas (Dark House Press, 2014)
Richard Thomas has amassed a superb anthology of creepy tales in The New Black with some of my favorite stories by Stephen Graham Jones, Benjamin Percy, Matt Bell, and others. Although the whole concept of neo-noir fiction can be a little murky and difficult to define, the best stories in this collection transcend any sort of labels. Spend a night reading Lindsay Hunter’s “That Baby” and try to sleep restfully. I’d wager you can’t.
2. Maplecroft: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest (Roc Trade, 2014)
Perhaps you prefer your horror to have a Victorian flare? Cherie Priest offers up a pulpy deconstruction in Maplecroft wherein Lizzie Borden (of forty whacks fame) is actually fighting Eldritch sea-zombies who have possessed her family and friends. It sounds eye-rollingly bad, but it’s no worse than whatever creature feature you were planning to watch tonight. Here, I’ll spoil the end of Dagon for you. Now put down the remote and pick up a book.
3. Transdimensional Trangender Transubstantiation: A Memoir by edward j. rathke (Self-published, 2014)
edward j rathke’s newest novella is filled with the makings of a great Halloween read: raven’s, masks, roiling galactic viscera. It’s not entirely a horror novel, though. Despite being more of a metaphysical allegory, Transdimensional… is still terrifying. Like the weird fiction writers of the past, rathke knows existence is far scarier than any monster could ever be.
4. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix (Quirk Books, 2014)
Quirk Books is best known for their literary mash-ups, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies & Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters, which are clever gimmicks, but hardly fearsome. And, at cursory glance, Horrorstör seems to fit right in with the rest of the press’s fare. It’s a horror novel made to look like an Ikea catalog, but a closer look at its entries (like the one used as the feature image) reveals that there’s something more to this story than the run-of-the-mill novelty book. The Grave Encounters by way of The Overnight story of employees staying the night to solve the mystery and the descriptions of hapless wage slaves being savagely dismembered confirmed my intuition.
5. The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare (Broken River Books, 2014)
There’s a thriving scene in independent literature that takes and deconstructs horror cinema through literary fiction. Brian Allen Carr’s Motherfucking Sharks is akin to a SyFy original movie. Stephen Graham Jones’s The Last Final Girl is a love letter to classic slasher films. Leprechaun in the Hood: The Musical, co-written by Cameron Pierce, Adam Cesare, and Shane McKenzie, is a novel about, well, the movie Leprechaun adapted into a musical. It’s all so wonderfully clever and equally horrifying. In The First One You Expect, Cesare takes a page from J. T. Petty’s S&man and explores the gritty world of independent horror filmmaking. What’s truly terrifying about Cesare’s novel, though, is how familiar it all feels.
6. After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones (Dark House Press, 2014)
So I’ve already referenced Stephen Graham Jones in two of the previous entries in this list, but that’s because his fiction is just that gripping. Jones is one of the most compelling authors of horror fiction right now, and if you’re unaware of his chilling prowess, this new collection is a good primer. Happy Halloween!