Pick ‘n’ mix: Oh, the horror!

CoverI’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 …

6 thoughts on “Pick ‘n’ mix: Oh, the horror!

  1. zackids 26 October 2011 / 10:53 am

    I’m not a fan of those sadistic horror films like Saw but I’ve really gotten into horror books in the last few years. I especially like horror stories for children and young adults because they can be creepy without overdosing on the gore. Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series is one of my recent favourites. They’re about a boy whose invisible friend, who he hasn’t seen in years, comes back to kill him.

    • bronnypop 26 October 2011 / 12:43 pm

      Thanks for the recommendations, Zac, I’m ALWAYS on the hunt for new horror titles and authors, and I agree, kids’ and teens’ books are often just as scary, if not more so. I never had an invisible friend myself, and now I don’t think I want one …

  2. Mojo Jojo 26 October 2011 / 11:46 am

    Oh my god, Sapphire and Steel! Testament to the British ability to create something truly terrifying with no special effects budget. (I mean, how did they make that little wobbly torch-light so terrifying?) This used to scare me silly as a kid. I later worked out that one of the things that makes it so unsettling is the relative lack of incidental music – you don’t get a lot of the aural cues you’re used to as warnings.

    They replayed it a few years ago on late night telly and I was determined to settle my ghosts (so to speak) and prove I was a grown-up now and could watch it all by myself. I got part-way through the opening credits before slamming in a video and telling myself I’d enjoy it more in the daylight… 😉

    • bronnypop 26 October 2011 / 12:42 pm

      Hahaha! We did exactly the same thing, but we also managed to thoroughly scare the nearly adult teenagers in the house as a bonus. Ah, the good old days of TV!

  3. Marion H 27 October 2011 / 11:00 am

    I used to be a real wuss about reading and watching horror. With horror movies I started watching comedy horrors like Fright Night (now being remade), Love at first bite, until I felt able to watch horrors – still freak me out a bit but I like the rush of adrenaline. I have learned not to drink red wine while watching horrors though – got a bit messy in the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street (through spillage not quaffage). If you’re just trying to ease into horror I can recommend Salem”s Lot by Stephen King, The devil walks by Anne Fine (creepy children’s book) or for the very faint-hearted The Seance by John Harwood is a good starting point. The latter is modern but is classic Victorian gothic horror.

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