Now that it is officially autumn, the balance of the equinox having been overwhelmed by the darkening days, it’s time to consider things that go bump in the night and turn your blood cold. Yes, it’s time to consider the writing that really doesn’t help you sleep at night. And I’m not talking about the horror of a badly constructed sentence, or the frightful use of punctuation!
No I’m talking about writing that makes you check under your bed before you slip into a troubled sleep, muahahahahaha!
When I was younger I went through a phase of reading James Herbert novels, particularly his “The Rats” trilogy which frankly scared the bejeezes out of me, and made me nervous about sitting on the toilet for too long. They were also filled, or at least this is how I remember them, with a quite strong sexual content, a double bubble of fear and naughtiness. I’m not sure how they would stack up today if I re-read them, but as I’m a little scaredy-cat I’m sure they would still have some edge.
More recently I read “The Dark” and that really did give me the hebejebes when I had to turn the light off to sleep.
When talking about horror it’s impossible not to mention Stephen King. I have to admit that I started reading “It” and had to give up after 50 pages or so because even before I picked up the book clowns made me nervous. After consulting with braver people than myself it has been confirmed that this a cracking good read if you want to be freaked out.
Clearly, “Salem’s Lot” has to be mentioned just to remind ourselves that Vampires are not meant to be sexy, emotionally conflicted, or irritatingly human. No, they are creatures with no souls that only want one thing from us humans, no not to feel our pain, they want our BLOOD! Just remember a child vampire is still a vampire and whatever you do don’t invite him in.
The playwright Conor McPherson has a lovely way of getting under the skin and chilling the soul with his stories of the unexplained. In his first play “The Weir”, he beautifully combines the power of story telling with myths and ghostly tales to create images that with stay with you particularly as night settles in and the wind begins to make your house creak and sigh.
Less frightening but certainly no less disturbing are some of the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, I’ve always enjoyed the faceless cruelty of “The Pit and the Pendulum”.
Less straightforwardly a horror story but still completely horrifying is “American Psycho”. Bret Easton-Ellis’ 1990s tale of conspicuous consumption and serial killing; even as I type this there’s a particular scene involving a hungry rat that I wish I could forget.
While we’re broadening out the definition of horror this is an appropriate time to mention “Lord of the Flies” which recently turned 60, happy birthday. Again, although not a straight horror it is nevertheless a deeply disturbing account of how thin the veneer of civilisation and society is when it’s all about survival.
The book really resonated with me as I was one of those kids fortunate enough to wear glasses all through my school days, aaah, such cherished memories.
So, are there other recommendations from those brave souls amongst you that haven’t been afraid to immerse yourselves more fully into the icy waters of horror? I can’t promise I’ll read any of them though, I like my sleep too much.