Tag Archives: horror books

Books To Read For Halloween Part II Stephen King Edition

Welcome back, my Nasties! It’s time to dim the lights, cozy up with the corpse of your dreams, and spice the cider as we discuss more terrifying tales to titillate your tinglers this Halloween!

In my previous post, there was a definite lack of Stephen King’s wide variety of grizzly works. Nearly every book he’s written has gone on to become a certain masterpiece in the field of horror and his career has given nightmares to generations since his first published work.

Dedicating time to discuss each of his books would be a miniseries of reviews in of itself, and, admittedly, almost all of his books in their own way can be enjoyed for Halloween, I’ve selected those paranormal powerhouses that I tend to re-read this time of year.

‘Salem’s Lot


This was the book that introduced me to King’s work and I’ve been hooked ever since. Upon a first read – back in my teens – I would have told you the book is primarily about vampires, and, to be fair, it is teeming with legions of undead fiends of the night. The vampires here are ruthless, uncaring, and bestial with blood-lust. King envelops the reader with a phantasmagorical atmosphere much like how the quiet town of ‘Salem’s Lot is slowly engulfed by creeping vampires. It sets a malignant mood for eerie spooks and chills that’s required for Halloween.

Upon re-reading the book last year though I was struck by a new revelation. Something I somehow missed in my youth. This is an exceptional haunted house story. It all has to do with that old corpse of a house looming gravely atop the hill.

Yes, there are the vampires, but the center of the story, the rotted and tacky black core all has to do with that old accursed house where bad things happen and worse things are drawn towards. It’s the demonic heart of the story. In one book King does something very difficult and he does it very, very well. He reinvents gothic horror by utilizing universally established vampire lore set within the shadows of the old haunted (dark) house legend. Bravo, sir. This is a must-read for horror fans.

IT


The book opens upon a dark and rainy day when innocents is taken by the reawakening of an eldritch evil lingering deep in the roots of Derry, Maine. Given the movie’s (both of them now) global success everyone knows who Pennywise the Dancing Clown is. IT’s become a household name now. I picked this one not just because it’s my favorite Stephen King book but because if you like monsters for your Halloween – especially the classic ones – you’ll not want to miss out on reading this book!

Stephen King wrote IT because he wanted a book where he could include all those wonderful Universal guys like Mummy, Wolfman, and Frankenstein’s monster. Plus Rodan just for the Hell of it. Pennywise was his chance to use these monsters he grew up loving. Pennywise takes on the face and image of what people fear, and if children fear monsters they’ve seen in movies that’s precisely what he, IT, will become. This is a macabre terror train monster extravaganza and boasts some truly chilling moments.

You grow to love the main cast of characters and come to fear for their safety. Something that marks the work of a great writer. And King was in his element with this book. The story also allows us to step back in time for a glimpse back to the happier days of childhood. Along the way are monsters, Lovecraftian sized terror, and a Killer Clown. No wonder this is my favorite one!

Needful Things


Often overlooked by its big brothers, this book is an underrated horror gem for fans! For one thing it just screams Autumn to me. Fallen leaves, crisp air, long nights and a haunting presence lurking in unnatural shadows.

As is his favored way of approaching stories, a sleepy little town in Maine finds itself in the center of a hellacious onslaught once a humble emporium opens up. Needful Things, it reads in the window and inside the kindly Mr. Gaunt awaits you with a warm smile and cheerful eyes.

His shop also just happens to have exactly what you’ve wanted your whole life. Can you believe your luck? Your holy grail here in your hometown! The coveted treasure of your heart’s desire. And Gaunt offers you one Hell of a deal. You just have to do him a little favor and it’s all yours. You just have to pull a little prank for him. A trick for your treat.

What starts out as seemingly innocent pranks pulled on local neighbors quickly escalate to harsh offenses. Those deeply buried little irritations that have piled up over the years are like dried corn husks in the mind. Gaunt simply hands every customer a match. He doesn’t make them set the flame. But he does encourage it.

Once again proving how dangerous everyday people are Needful Things establishes the worst kind of monsters are those who wear human faces. And if you want a bit of Devil for Halloween you won’t want to miss out on this one.

Night Shift

Sometimes devoting so much time to a larger book like IT can feel a bit overwhelming. So there’s Night Shift for those of us who want to read a microwave version of King’s horrific imagination. Night Shift is a collection of King’s earlier short stories and includes classics like Children of the Corn, Sometimes They Come Back, and Graveyard Shift among the gruesome tales.

Pet Sematary

Another of his books that just screams Halloween to me. What’s considered to be his very best work by many fans, Pet Sematary is a ghoulish tale of loss, of the sanctity of the grave, and those who would defy the natural course of life. At least on the surface, and that already is a great stuff! But Stephen King always has something wicked underneath it all. And in this case it’s the Wendigo.

Rising out of the dark of night is the demon of starvation, of famine, and of unrelenting desire. The Natives of the land knew of it, became wise to its evil presence once it settled down in those parts, and wisely feared the thing of evil. The ground – the one far beyond the solemn little child-built cemetery – went sour ages ago by the substance of that thing’s evil and the very woods themselves try to keep curious men from ever discovering the accursed grounds dedicated to the Wendigo. It’s a place where things refuse to stay buried.

Who doesn’t love seeing the dead rising from their restless graves? It fits in with Halloween tradition! And this book has plenty of it, but, the book’s primary concern is the evil spirit, Wendigo, who has soured the land and – much like how Pennywise works Derry – pulls the strings to feed its vile needs.

If you’ve only watched the movies you’ve missed half the story. I was hoping with the remake they might feature the Wendigo in a more prominent role but the filmmakers wussed out and left the monster out of the movie. That’s real smart ain’t it? Make a monster movie without the monster. Yes, those buried in the old forsaken Micmac Burial Ground are cursed with unwholesome existence and rise with the stink of the unholy earth on them. But what both films missed is what the power behind the Micmac Burial Ground is.

In the remake we see those creepy kids acting out the ritual to bury their dead pets while they play drums and wear creepy masks. Like some pagan tradition. A tradition revolving around some ancient spirit…like, oh fuck I don’t know, the Wendigo? The movie teased at the presence of the Wendigo and mention it but that’s where it stopped. The evil spirit is active in the book and gives the story a more sinister vibe. Like you know the poor Creed family was doomed the moment they moved into that new house. The Wendigo already stretched out its hand to claim them.

Knowing that the reader can only sit back and read about the doom that befell them.

Terrifying Reads For A Scary Halloween! Book Recommendations Part I 

It’s the best time of the year! The days grow darker, nights are longer, and there’s a crispness in the air that all point to the spooky season we’ve waited for all year long. We all know we’ll busy ourselves with planned horror movie marathons to keep us glued to the screen long into the wee hours of early morning, but there’s just something special about a good scary book to enhance the eerie needs around this time of year. 

Perfect time to pick out that blood-curdling spine-chiller to curl up with under a warm blanket . So warm your apple cider, grab a goody to go along with it, and join us over here at the Nightmare as we go over some terrifying choices to haunt your dreams for weeks to come. 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

The gothic classic that’s ravaged the psyche of generations ever since its grim release. The infamous story of grave robbing and the perpetual pursuit of mankind’s need to tamper with things only God is meant to wield. Arrogantly death itself is challenged by the book’s titular character as he slips further away from the lighted world of his friends and loved ones and entraps himself in a world of darkness and isolation as the insidious work of his own hands rises from the slab to hunt down and pay revenge upon all Victor Frankenstein holds dear. No one is safe from the monster’s relentless grasp. 

I read this back when I was 17 and instantly fell in love with the narrative and cinematic scope its writer, Mary Shelley, seized in words and tone. It remains one of my top 5 absolute favorite books and is a true loss to any horror reader who has yet to discover its black magic. The movies this single book has inspired is in the hundreds so why not come into the dark with Victor and me to see true mastery of the written craft at work. You may not leave the same though. 

Not only is it one of the earliest among gothic horror but it’s heavily influenced genres such as body horror and science fiction alike. Highly influential and violently poetic.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

This book is chilling and it’s no wonder the movie adaptation scared the devil out of the world and earned the title of ‘scariest movie ever made.’

The devil is real, at least between the covers of Blatty’s book. Upon its publication, people were not ready for the sorcery presented herein. Surely the Devil could not exist in a world of science and education. These aren’t the Dark Ages after all. But Blatty reintroduced Satan – and all his foul little ways – back to the human psyche.

Certainly the Devil was not a new concept and this wasn’t the first book to give Satan the spotlight, but there was simply something authentic, yes, indeed very real about Blatty’s presentation of evil. One that poked a cold and bony finger into the lower spine of society. 

One of my professors at seminary went to question Blatty about this book and challenge him for falsely handling the topic of exorcism. The very opposite thing happened though as my professor left (after meeting with the writer) entirely convinced the man was well aware of the occult and the supernatural dangers surrounding it. 

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Warner Bros/Hoya Prods./Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5885474g) The Exorcist (1973) The Exorcist – 1973 Director: William Friedkin Warner Bros/Hoya Productions USA Scene Still Horror L’Exorciste

The Exorcist took Satan out of the boiling pits of Hell, a vivid image everyone had in mind since the release of Dante’s Inferno, and also away from robed and darkly cloaked covens, a thing typically associated with the Prince of Darkness, and dropped him right inside the everyday home of any family. The Devil’s target is not the rich and powerful, but the young, the innocent, and, most importantly, the pure in heart. This was a Devil you couldn’t kill with a stake through the heart, holy water, or prayer. The message was Satan is far greater than we are ready to deal with. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in him or not. If he’s invited in – no matter how innocently – he will not turn down the invitation. 

Upon its publication, the whole tone of horror books changed for the following two decades to come. 

Doubtless, you’ve watched the movie. It may be time to pick up the book and let its haunting merits enter your mind. 

The Rats by James Herbert

It’s nothing short of a travesty that James Herbert is not talked about more among horror bookworms. When’s the last time you saw a book boasting his name? Can you believe this guy was all the rage back in the ‘70s? This guy was taking the world by storm with his macabre visions and graphic details. 

They say the devil’s in the details and they’re right! Especially when it comes to the grotesque mastery of this one man’s writing skills. He just knows the perfect spot – the one that that’ll hurt the most – to stab and get under your skin. Not only that, but he will gleefully start scraping a nerve before you can beg for the whole nasty ordeal to stop. And he’ll do so with a pleasant smile – one only the English can muster – on his face. He’s a lovely chap but a true sadist with a typewriter. 

In The Rats, we are given exactly what we’re expecting from a title like this. That is if you’re expecting to read a book about legions (I mean legions too) of greasy overgrown rats set upon tearing the citizens of London to weeping bloody shreds. No one is safe from these violent, blood-thirsty terrors either. 

Think a sweet old woman is gonna make it just because, well, she’s an old woman? Well, that’s rich. She gets it pretty bad. And, if memory serves me correctly, she gets taken down and torn apart because she had the audacity to rush over and help some other poor soul being attacked. That’ll teach ya for being nice! 

How grizzly is this book? Well by the time you get to chapter three a baby has already been flooded by a living flow of red eyes, yellow teeth, and no mercy. And just for good measure, as if a fine fuck you especially from the writer, in the same instance the rats kill a puppy as they chew the bones away from the baby. That’s the kind of book you’re getting yourself into.

It’s brilliant stuff for the gorehounds out there. It’s messy and it’s almost smelly like you can sense the filthy sewers these giant feral things swarm out of.  And this book has nothing in common with the Bruno Mattei film, Rats: Night of Terror. In case you were wondering.

Just imagine yourself sitting at a red light when suddenly – and for no good reason – your car is gnawed through by rats. You are trapped. Your instinct is to get out but when you look out the window the whole road is alive with flesh-hungry rats. You cannot escape and can only sit and wait for the pain the stop as you slip into the embrace of the Abyss. That’s the genius of The Rats. I guess it bears similarity with a zombie plague, that overwhelming sense of ‘escapelessness.’ Something about knowing we, human beings, are victims to nature really has a way of chewing us up. 

Not for the faint of heart but is perfect for a great creepy feeling as the world hides in shadows… what else might be hiding out there with the night? Be wary of things that can scurry across the floor and climb up into your bed and glide like phantoms under the sheets. 

James Herbert needs to be more recognized by us horror fans. The man was brilliant. 

Off Season by Jack Ketchum

Let’s keep it nasty, shall we? Many fans might be surprised I didn’t go with his The Girl Next Door and I do recommend it. But Off Season fits the fall mood more, kind of like the title suggests. 

It’s the perfect time to go relax at that cabin by the lake. Or so our cast of characters think. What awaits them though is a painful and agonizing fate wrought by a feral family who lives in secret out in the woods and who hungrily stalk any poor soul who has the shit fortune to pass by. 

The book opens with a Good Samaritan (the Hell is it with these stories punishing folks for being nice?) stopping her car to help a seemingly injured young girl. It’s all a sickening ruse as the kind woman soon finds herself in a ring of dirty, smelling, inbred teenagers who see her as less than human. They came to play and she’s the toy. The ruthlessness depicted at the story’s beginning lets the reader know that the main cast of unsuspecting characters (to come) is in for Hell. 

Jack Ketchum was my mentor and I miss him dearly. The man is the reason why I’m writing today and it all began with me picking up this book from (get this) Wal-Mart of all places! I like to think some soccer mom also picked up a copy and threw it away in disgust once she realized just what the fuck she purchased. 

This is splatterpunk kind of stuff and proves that pain is scary and the human body has very little worth in the eyes of psychopaths. 

Psycho by Robert Bloch

I feel it fitting to end this first part with the book that creeped out the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The man could not put this book down and it drove him to make the one horror film that would dare change the tone and attitude for horror movies for ever. Much like, I might add, The Exorcist did. 

We’ve all seen the movie (I mean assumedly) and know the story very well. However, and very interestingly, unlike the movie’s adaptation that follows Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane, the book makes us follow Norman Bates. It gets uncomfortable too as poor dumpy Norman casually talks with Mother come morning to night. It had to have been fun for early readers not to know (SPOILERS!!!!!!!) Mother is in fact dead and he’s interacting with dried-out husk. 

Like I said we have to tag along with Norman Bates. If you read this book there’s simply no choice. We become unwilling voyeurs into the daily routines of a man who is not at all right in the head. And there is no reflection of Anthony Perkins in this Norman Bates. None of that handsome and clean-shaven man of mystery.

The book did inspire sequels, just like the movie did, but I’ve not had the chance to read those yet. Although I’ve heard that they greatly differ from the cinematic continuation. Speaking of which I do strongly recommend the film sequels. They have no business being as good as they are and I think horror fans get cheated for not giving the movies a chance. I snubbed my nose at them because, well, how dare they make a sequel to Psycho? But to my surprise, the films really hold up. Ok tangent over… I guess I should get copies of the book sequels too.

Upcoming Book “Ad Nauseam” Highlights Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s

Ahh. The glory days of 1980’s horror film advertising!

Set for a time-appropriate release this October 9th, 2018, former Fangoria Editor-in-Chief and current contributor at Rue Morgue Magazine (among his many other ventures), Michael Gingold brings us a glorious 248-page, full-color, hardbound book that features more than 450 rare, vintage ads pulled from Gingold’s personal archive entitled Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares From The 1980s. 

Upcoming Book "Ad Nauseam" Highlights Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s

Edited by former Rue Morgue editor-in-chief Dave Alexander and presented by Rue Morgue, 1984 Publishing title Ad Nauseam will highlight a golden age of horror movie ads, and really, is there anything more nostalgic than retro horror film advertisements?

Per the press release:

Growing up in the ’80s, the future Fangoria writer and editor would carefully cut out ads he saw in local newspapers, leaving him with a collection tracing horror movie history via both blockbusters and obscurities.

“I’ve wanted to assemble this collection of movie-advertising madness in book form for many years, so 1984 and Rue Morgue’s publication of Ad Nauseam is a long-time dream come true,” says Gingold, who’s also a contributor to Rue Morgue, Birth.Movies.Death, Time Out, New York, and Scream, and the author of The FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies and Shark Movie Mania.

“These are the horror films I grew up with, and this volume is a celebration of that classic era of the genre.”

Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s goes year-by-year through Gingold’s
archive, and includes rare alternate art for Gremlins, Child’s Play, The Blob remake, and the Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises. Oddities covered include Psycho from Texas, Dracula Blows His Cool, Blood Hook, Zombie Island Massacre, and many more. He provides personal recollections, commentary and includes snippets of contemporary reviews, to reveal what critics really thought of these movies at the time. To get a better sense of horror’s business side, Gingold also interviews the men behind legendary exploitation distributor Aquarius Releasing to learn how they built buzz for shockers like Make Them Die Slowly and Doctor Butcher M.D.
The regular version of Ad Nauseam retails for $34.95 USD and will be available online via Amazon and local bookstores worldwide. Details on a combo pack from the iconic horror merch designer Fright-Rags, which will include a signed book and a specially-designed T-shirt, are forthcoming.

Make sure to grab this sucker to proudly display on your coffee table, just in time for Halloween! Pre-order your copy here at Amazon!