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horror fiction

Jan 25 2016

The Things That Scare You…

by Dea Anne M

And I hope that title doesn’t scare anyone out of reading this post! I’m thinking about scary books today because of an article on the site Bustle called “11 Books That Scared the Master of Horror…” with said Master of Horror being no less an expert than the author Stephen King. Some of the titles fall squarely within the horror genre (although that category encompasses many different types of styles and stories in my opinion) while others might seem a bit surprising, Big Little Lies and The Girl On the Train among them. In any case, it’s a thoughtful and unusual list from a writer I’ve always found more deeply thoughtful than many people give him credit for being. Of the 11 titles, DCPL owns the following:

headfullofghostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Accident: A Novel by Chris Pavone

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

Considering King’s list unleashed some memories about books that have scared me in the past, let me hasten to add here that I am one of those people who love being scared–not, of course, in real life and by things that are genuinely frightening–but through books or movies. If you’re that kind of person yourself, then you know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t that sort of person, then you may find this preference completely baffling–but I’m willing to bet that you know more than one person like me…maybe even your own partner or child!

What scares me in a book or movie? Well, gore and slasher epics leave me a little cold. Nor do zombies or vampires give me that delicious tingle of fright (while ensconced on my perfectly safe living room couch of course). I generally hate the sort of movie, or book, where the menace just won’t stay down and keeps popping up again and again. My private name for that sort of conclusion is “The End…or is it?”

I think the scary books that I have found the most effective are those in which the menace can’t be seen and either never really reveals itself or when it does it’s simply too late. I have read many, many books in my life, but of the stories that have really and truly scared me only three stand out. All three of these had me sleeping with my lights on for many nights in a row and, to be honest, I don’t think that I want to go back and re-read any of these again. Even for me, they were far too scary. Given, I was a teenager when I first experienced them. Still, I think I’ll play it safe and let them stay on the shelf for others to experience in their own way.  They are:

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty – a very scary novel which also explores questions of faith in a surprisingly deep fashion.

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote – a classic of true crime writing and completely chilling. Capote transcended the genre with this one and the story of his writing the book is as fascinating as the book itself.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – mesmerizing and unsettling in a way that more overt attempts at horror will never approach, this is an utterly singular novel.

Are you a fan of scary stories too? What are some of your past and current favorites?

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Sep 21 2011

Spine-tingling fiction…then and now

by Dea Anne M

September 21st is the birthday of Stephen King, arguably the world’s most widely recognized author of horror fiction. Since the publication of Carrie in 1974, King has published many horror novels, novellas, and short stories as well as fantasy and non-fiction. His work overall is characterized by “everyman” type characters and is particularly sympathetic toward children and adolescents. I haven’t read a Stephen King book in quite awhile, but I was a big fan at one time. I think The Shining is one of the most effectively frightening tales that I have ever experienced and I have a particular weird fondness for King’s epic, almost painfully  earnest, story of good versus evil The Stand ( I’ll even occasionally sit down and re-watch the 1994 television mini-series based on the book starring such 90’s luminaries as Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald…a  little over the top, but fun!).

Are you a fan of the horror genre looking for something new? Here are some fresh voices you might consider:

Allison Hewitt Is Trapped: a zombie novel by Madeline Roux features a bookstore clerk/graduate student heroine who, while trapped by zombies at her place of work, begins a blog to try and connect with the outside world.

Another zombie story, Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory is the tale of how the title character, an undead infant, is rescued and reared by a human family and finally comes of age to explore and embrace his heritage.

Hater by David Moody is, according to the Publishers Weekly starred review, a “nail-biter” of a debut novel and concerns a regular working guy attempting to keep his family safe in a world gone mad with a violence-inducing virus. A film version is currently in the works and is supposed to be directed by Guillermo del Toro of  Pan’s Labyrinth fame.

On the YA front, White Crow by Marcus Sedgewick tells the story of sixteen- year-old Rebecca, her new friend Ferelith, and their exploration of a remote village’s sinister history. According to Booklist “This book is one thing very few YA novels are: genuinely scary.”

Finally, my own favorite horror offering of the past few years has got to be Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Emotionally nuanced (Cronin has previously published literary fiction) and told in an epic style reminiscent to me in some ways of The Stand, the story concerns the human survivors of a man-made plague attempting to survive in a world populated by “virals” or “dracs.” These vampires are not the the brooding teenagers of Twilight or the alluring undead of the Sookie Stackhouse series. This novel is, in my mind, completely original and highly recommended.

 

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