Selections by Jeanne
I’m not normally a horror reader. Oh, I used to be, years ago, but that was before Richard Matheson’s Hell House aka The Legend of Hell House scared the bejezus out of me and kept me awake a couple of nights. Since then I’ve been cautious about the scary stuff I read because I am now much older and I need my sleep. I do still pick up the occasional creepy book, especially this time of year. Here are some I have enjoyed in the past:
Hell House: Nope, nope, not going to pick this one up again. The ending is still too vivid. Matheson’s tale of a group of investigators who spend the night in an allegedly haunted house may be tame by today’s standards, even be considered stale after a legion of books on this theme, but I don’t care. I’m not going to read it again. I’m just going to respect it from a safe distance.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: Most people like The Haunting of Hill House, but I was drawn to this story of two sisters who are shunned by most of the town over an incident in the past. Of course, Jackson's story“The Lottery” is an absolute gem; but I also very much like – and often refer to—“One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts.” (For a different view of Jackson, by all means pick up her two domestic humor books, Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons. )
The Seeker by R.B. Chesterton: Graduate student Aine Cahill has a journal written by a female relative who was a friend (and perhaps more) to Henry David Thoreau. As part of her research, Aine has come to Walden Pond to try to find evidence to corroborate Aunt Bonnie’s story but soon she begins to wonder if there is something else lurking in the woods. This is one of those books that the minute I finished I tried to find someone else to read the book so we could discuss it. Extremely well written, atmospheric, and with fascinating characters, this is one I recommend often. (Chesterton is a pen name for Carolyn Haines, who writes the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries, but the Chesterton titles are darker in tone and, so far, are standalones.)
The Other by Thomas Tryon: Another book I read years ago, but which left a strong impression. The story revolves around young brothers Niles and Holland who live on a farm in New England. While twins, the two boys are very different in personality: Niles is sweet natured and cautious, while Holland is daring and reckless, with a cruel streak. But is he responsible for a series of “accidents” around the farm? This was Tryon’s first novel, but it was followed by another semi-classic horror tale, Harvest Home. He later turned to historical fiction before his untimely death.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill: After a number of folks on DorothyL recommended this title, I picked it up. I soon put it back down again. This tale of a young solicitor sent to a remote village to settle an estate was written in the Victorian first person style and just seemed too slow. A few months later, I picked it up again and was drawn in immediately. The setting is vivid: a dark, desolate old mansion out in a salt march with the fog rolling in, and a dampness that seems to seep out of the words and straight into the reader’s bones. The ending is abrupt, shocking. At first I felt a bit cheated, but I certainly remember it; so it certainly fulfilled its purpose. By the way, if you’ve seen the movie with Daniel Radcliffe, then you have some idea of the atmosphere of the book. That part was very well done. However, the movie took a number of liberties, including changing the ending and turning it into more of a standard horror movie.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King: This was King’s second novel after Carrie and I liked it better. For one thing, it was a dandy modern-day vampire story. Set in Maine, the story revolves around a small town where two strangers have moved into a house with an unsettling reputation. Then things really start to go downhill. . . . King has said that the inspiration for the book was wondering what would happen if Dracula moved into to a contemporary American village and the parallels are easy to see.
Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin: Long before the first Game of Thrones book, Martin wrote a number of science fiction/fantasy books, including this gem. Abner Marsh is a Mississippi steamboat owner whose fleet has been pretty much demolished. Enter Joshua York, a mysterious gentleman who is willing to bankroll a fantastic new boat. . . but York’s secrecy worries Marsh. Just what is York hiding? And what plans does he have for this boat? This is another great example of Martin’s ability to take a genre and reform it in new and interesting ways.