Happy World Book Day: 20 favourite horror books.

Books: not just for twatty geeks, honest.

It being world book day today, what better time for the Porkhead to leave his lonely Hole and visit a library. Yes, it's list time; 20 of my favourite horror books and novels. In no particular order (so don't flappin' whinge about, say, Lovecraft being above Poe). And, because this list would otherwise read like a love letter to Ketchum, King, Barker and Herbert. So only one selection per author (damn, what a choice... The Fog or Rats?) Read on to find out...

20. Dearly Devoted Dexter (Jeff Lindsay) - Well yes, the TV series is massively better, but the Dexter books are still cracking reads. But since the first book is quite close in terms of plot to the series, it suffers by comparison. This sequel however, offers something I really, really wish the series had picked up. Doakes, kidnapped by the book's villain (the one that isn't Dexter) has his hands, feet and tongue cut off. Oh, but how I would've loved to see that play out in series 2.

19. 30 Days of Night (Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith) - An idea so simple is wonderfully executed in Niles and Templesmith's cool little comic. It later became a movie, which is just as good.

18.The Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman) - An enormous zombie epic that began in 2003 and still isn't finished. Due to become a TV series soon, which is something to look forward to. More soap opera-ey than one might expect, but a seminal read, all the same.

17. The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris) - A great book which later became an even better film. Shame he went and ruined it with the ending to Hannibal and then really, really ruined things with Hannibal Rising.

16. Slugs (Shaun Hutson) - Yes, a horror novel about slugs. And it's properly horrible. There's a sequel (also good) and a movie, apparently. A fun, gruesome litte addition to the animals-run-amok subgenre.

15. Through a Glass Darkly (Sheridan Le Fanu) - Who knew, University reading lists occasionally yeild something worth reading. Sure, I'd read Dracula, Frankenstein and the other classics years ago, but Uni introduced me to Le Fanu. If you like Poe and the other Victorian Gothic stuff, Le Fanu's stories are well worth a go.

14. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (Edgar Allan Poe) - Enough said, surely? A master of the short horror story.
Poe: master of the short horror story

13. The Fog (James Herbert) - Nope, nothing to do with the Carpenter flick of the same name, James Herbert's The Fog sees a small English village go crazy after being beset by a thick green, mysterious fog. It's a bit like The Crazies, only Herbert's knack for carnage and insanity really brings out the horror of it all. A fantastic, barnstorming read.

12. The Toxic Avenger (Lloyd Kaufman/Adam Jahnke) - Yes, the people at Troma done wrote a book. And not just any book, an adaptation of undoubtedly its finest movie; The Toxic Avenger. Whereas most adaptations of movies suck, this is a brilliant, hilarious little read. Chapter 4 is entitled "Featuring the Full Head-Crushing Scene".

11. The Strain (Guillermo Del Toro/Chuck Hogan) - Like CSI, only with vampires. And that's as good as it sounds. Bring on the rest of the trilogy.

10. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) - You know the story. And if you don't, fuck off and get down the library. I'm not talking the Robert De Niro version either; read the book.

9. Dracula (Bram Stoker) - You know the story. And if you don't, fuck off and get down the library. I'm not talking the Keanu Reeves version either; read the book.

8. Jaws (Peter Benchley) - Actually better than the movie, believe it or not. Man vs Shark: superbly depicted, with a fair bit of gore and sex thrown in for good measure. The final showdown between the humans and the Jaws is excellently done, and shark-hunter Quint is just as awesome in book form.

7. American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis) - Even more disturbing than the movie, which is quite impressive. We all know the story of Patrick Bateman, but it's a shame no-one included that scene were Bateman tricks someone into eating a urinal cake. Reading this, you can see why it was declared "unfilmable" for a while.

6. The HP Lovecraft Collection (HP Lovecraft) - A collection of his best stories. I do love me some Lovecraft. Not bad for a massively racist crazy person (one story has the protagonist's cat named "Nigger-Man"). Still, if you can get over the xenophobic undertones and the stories' relative lack of form & grace, Lovecraft is up there amongst the best.

5. IT (Stephen King) - Damn, choosing my favourite King novel is a difficult one, but IT manages to grab the gold. The story is fantastic (I really dig the multiple timelines), the characters are sympathetic and the villain is perhaps King's best.

4. The Books of Blood (Clive Barker) - Barker always shines in his short stories, and The Books of Blood are amongst my favourite. Ranging from odd (In the Hills, the Cities) to violent (The Midnight Meat Train) to cruel (Dread), Barker's Bloody Books offer everything you could possibly want from a horror author.

3. Off-season (Jack Ketchum) - Forget Offspring (itself a sequel to this novel), Off-season is where all the real fun is at. Jack Ketchum might be my favourite horror author out there, and this book showcases him at his best. It's backwoods horror, and sees some nice familes fall afoul of cannibal nasties. Ketchum rises above the chaff with his talent for depicting gruesome, visceral violence and creating properly evil villains.

2. Haunted (Chuck Palahniuk) - Simply put, the most horrible thing I have ever read. And I once tried to read Twilight. Haunted is a novel of short stories. A gaggle of wannabe writers travel to a dilapitated, locked-up house where they will all try to beat their writers' block. But , locked in as they are, craziness soon begins to set in and people begin to die (not to mention all the mutilation). And that's the overarching story. But the real meat lies in the short stories which punctuate the main narrative. There's a story about murder via foot massage. A disgusting little thing about a sex doll. And then there's Gut, which has to be read to be believed. A short story so horrible it made my manhood ache quite painfully. Once read, very never forgotten.

1. Let's Go Play at the Adams' (Mendal Johnson) - Yeech. Tied with Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door as the second-most disturbing thing I've ever read. A gang of young children one day decide to play tie-up with their babysitter. But the naughty little shites seem not to know when enough's enough. A traumatising, unforgettable book and amongst the finest I've ever read.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool to see LET'S GO PLAY AT THE ADAMS' get some love! I usually have a hard time finding other folks who have even *heard* of this one.

    Big fan of your blog, man. And if I may be so bold, might I suggest a few of my own novels, the next time you're looking for something cool to read? I think you'd dig 'em. We seem to share a lot of the same tastes.

    Anyway . . . keep up the great work!