I’m not a big fan of Halloween, to be honest – I don’t find the idea of sending your kids out to knock on strangers’ doors and demand things with the threat of violence in any way attractive. I am also a wee bit of a wuss when it comes to horror at the movies – Hostel and Saw don’t really do it for me either; although I do have a great fondness for Asian horror movies, which have the ability to thoroughly unsettle me in a really enjoyable way, and without the so-called torture-porn approach of a lot of current Western-style films.
What I DO love is curling up with a book and a blankie and being scared silly by what I’m reading. It’s hard to find good-quality horror writing (believe me, I know, I’ve looked; and I’m sure our library selectors would agree). A lot of it is either silly, or rubbish, or really icky, and some is an unholy combination of all three …
So for those who want to get into the spirit of horror before Halloween, without having to resort to cutting holes in sheets and stocking up on pre-wrapped sweeties, here’s a pick ‘n’ mix selection of a few of my favourite horror writers.
FG Cottam is a recent find, and I particularly enjoyed The Waiting Room, which reminded me so much of one of my favourite episodes of Sapphire and Steel, it was like watching the series over again – a double bonus! Beautifully written, with believable characters, Cottam’s books have the ability to unsettle and disturb while also being a great read, and I’m waving them at everyone I talk to at the moment.
Sarah Rayne’s Property of a Lady was another great read – I love horror books that feature houses as setting (and/or character), and I found this one really enjoyable too. Clocks that wind themselves, mysterious rooms with heavy draperies, and unexplained footsteps in the attic are always good for a wee chill.
If, like me, you enjoy Asian horror, try Thomas Randall’s new series The Waking. First in the series Dreams of the Dead is a genuinely creepy story of American teen Kara who moves to Japan with her father, and finds herself caught up in a supernatural mystery of missing girls, murderous school students, and Japanese demons. Again, the writing is excellent, the characters warmly drawn and the authentic setting and atmosphere make these books a must-read, not just for teens but anyone who loves good horror.
And I can’t let you leave without talking about one of my favourite ever horror books. Now over 50 years old, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House still has the power to keep me awake at night and disturb my peace of mind in the daytime. Don’t say I didn’t warn you …