Ok. I’m a Lovecraft fan and I’ll suffer some King (particularly older stuff) and I loved The House on Haunted Hill by Shirley Jackson. What else would people consider must read horror novels? I don’t mean crap like Koontz, btw. I can’t stand horror hackery, which sort of exacerbates my problem finding stuff like this to read.
Top Horror books (I’m skipping shorter stories, or else there’d be too much Lovecraft n’ Poe on the list!)
Shadow Over Innsmouth - Lovecraft
Dracula - Stoker
The Thing On The Doorstep - Lovecraft
House on Haunted Hill - Shirley Jackson
Frankenstein - Mary Shelly
'Salems Lot - Stephen King
At The Mountains of Madness - Lovecraft
I’m enjoying it, so I’ll throw I Am Legend on the list too.
Honestly, there isn’t a lot of good horror out there. I wish there were more. The Shirley Jackson book that you are thinking of is actually called The Haunting of Hill House, by the way, though I do agree that it’s a great book. Here are my suggestions:
Just finished reading Coraline, by Neil Gaiman. It’s a children’s book, and you may need to venture into the children’s section of your local bookstore to find it. It’s well worth the trip. Scary stuff. Neverwhere is also very good. I don’t know that I’d call it horror, though. it’s more like dark fantasy.
Weaveworld, by Clive Barker. I don’t like all of his stuff, but this book was fantastic. If you like it, the Great and Secret Show is also worth a look.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. He doesn’t do much overt horror, really, but some of his books and stories are pretty damn scary. Also check out the Halloween Tree.
I know you skipped shorter stories and only like some King, but I think King’s collections of short stories tend to be his best work. The short story format forces King to focus and it really helps his writing.
Skeleton Crew and Night Shift are his older short story collections, and I’d argue that The Mist in Skeleton Crew his one of his best stories ever.
I really can’t think of any good horror that I’ve read lately. Probably the most horrific thing I’ve read lately is The Perfect Storm, just because the images of being caught in a sinking ship really get to me.
The Books of Blood
The Keep (F. Paul Wilson)
Soft and Others (F. Paul Wilson)
Ghost Story (Peter Straub)
Shadowland (Peter Straub)
The Amityville Horror
That’s off the top of my head; I can offer more suggestions once I get home. Also, avoid anything by Bentley Little–he’s a horrible writer.
Also, if you want decent Lovecraftian-style horror, check out Brian Lumley’s early works. (Which have been recently reissued.)
I’ll go you one further and say that the short story format is ideal for horror. Its a genre that often doesn’t work at all when stretched out, often needlessly. The Mist is good stuff, agreed. I only omitted short stories because otherwise, my list would be all crazy.
Oh God Ben, if Sparky sees that you recommended Gaiman’s Neverwhere she’ll stomp on your house and use that atomic breath of hers. There’s a whole thread buried here where she, Brett Todd (I think) and I just eviscerate that book. Suffice it ta say, we din’t like it.
Also, I’ve read a lot of Barker and I only really liked The Books of Blood (again, short stories). Weaveworld, Imagica (or whatever) and the one with the Necropolis were ok, but not favorites of mine. I don’t go for the contemporary fantasy stuff he’s into. But seeing you recommended Gaiman, I’m not surprised to see Barker follow close behind. They are similar.
Thanks for the Shirley Jackson correction btw, I’m embarrassed… the damn book is sitting right in front of me. Ugh. Really I think what I want is stuff like this. I got “I Am Legend” by Mathieson and I can’t believe nobody recommended it to me before now. It’s great.
I recall a thread about great opening lines, here’s the one from Hill House:
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within…”
Those two words “not sane” really got me the first time I read this one.
Well, she can stomp away. I loved Neverwhere. Best thing Gaiman has written (and I like pretty much all of his stuff), though Stardust and the Season of the Mists (Sandman) story arc come pretty close.
You should check out Coraline, though. I think you’d like it.
Hey, Ben and I agree on The Halloween Tree (one of my favorites) :) As for spooky stuff, I don’t like anything modern (King, et al). Gimme some Lovecraft, Poe, J.S. Le Fanu and M.R. James. But I’m oldfangled like that. Now excuse me whilst I crawl back under this here moldering, web-encrusted catafalque. Mind the bats!
Bah. Neverwhere was absolute crap. The plot read just as predictably as the the TV miniseries adaptation it was, and the setting was like an obscene cross between Clive Barker (with his ‘other’ realities and races living just beneath human notice), and Piers Anthony’s Xanth series (with all the absolutely atrocious barrage of puns).
I just finished Coraline as well, and I was kind of iffy on it. It was better than most of his prose work, but still not as good as his comics (and even they owe a huge debt to Alan Moore). I’ve come to the conslusion that his style is just so much better for comics because his writing style just has no flow ro it. He. Writes. Line. By. Line. This. Makes. It. Very. Hard. For. The. Story. To. Have. Any. Proper. Sense. Of. Pacing.
Bleh. For good, dark childrens books, I’d reccomend Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy- The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. Intended for a slightly older audience than, say, the Harry Potter books, these are flat-out amazing. I hear they’re fairly popular among the kids, which surprises me. I wonder how these have slipped under the radar of the Chistian Right- this is a series of books that declares war on GOD HIMSELF at one point.
Recomendations, though. I can’t reccomend a lot of horror, but I can mention a few books with some thought-provoking horrific material in them. Kathe Koja’s Skin is pretty neat, but it’s written in a kind of semi-stream of conciousness style (much more coherent than Faulkner or Joyce, but still odd if you’re not prepared). Jack O’Connell’s latest book, Word Made Flesh is probably one of my favorite books ever. One part gritty crime novel, one part horror story (not supernatural at all though), and one part meditaion on language and communication, I really can’t reccomend it highly enough.
I’d recommend them, too, but I don’t know that I’d consider them dark, and they certainly aren’t horror. They are good, though.
Another good book that isn’t quite horror but is vaguely unsettling is Jame’s Blaylock’s “The Rainy Season.” Also in that category is Peter S. Beagle’s “Tamsin” (which leans a bit more towards horror, since it is a ghost story).
Dan Simmons’ horror books are also quite good, especially Carrion Comfort and LoveDeath. (Although the latter might not be technically “horror”.) Also, Robert McCammon’s Blue World is a great read.
It still amazes me that no one (in the horror genre) has ever come close to duplicating King’s success, especially since his formula is so obvious (and correct)–take a seemingly All-American family/person, establish their lives, and then have really, really bad stuff happen to them.
Instead, fools like Bentley Little regale us with tales of witches receiving their own city from the US Govenment after a letter-writing campaign…
I kind of like Peter Strab’s Blue Rose loose trilogy of books-- Koko, Mystery, and [Damn! I forget the name of the last one], but they’re not really horror. Unless just having really bad things happen to good people counts. Mystery I especially liked because of its rewriting of The Shadow legend. They’re more crime.
I just like King because I know I’m in for a good time whenever I pick up one of his books, even the bad ones are better than anything by Koontz or Anne Rice. His Bag of Bones is a pretty fair ghost story that has more levels than your modern horror novel. I honestly think King is underrated in terms of talent (as opposed to sales).
Ever read any John Fowles? The Maggot is a creepy as hell book where you never know quite what’s going on, and The Magus is a real rollercoaster ride. Again, I’m not sure if you’d call them horror.
Also, I’ve read a couple issues of http://www.thespook.com which is an interesting twist on the online magazine genre. The magazine is free to download in PDF form, but it comes with ads, just like a regular magazine. For awhile they were putting in a fake ad, and giving away a prize for finding it, in order to make readers actually look at the ads. I’m not sure how their business model is treating them, but they’ve had some good horror fiction in there.
Alright, who brought up Koontz. Blech!! My wife was reading him and tried to get me to read one about an agoraphobic who wrote video games. Around 250 pages into it I realized any pay off coming would not offset what I had been forced to read until that point. “The water fell in torrents like Niagra falls”, “Outside pressed upon her flesh like a momentous granite boulder”. These are not his exact words, but similair comparisons were spread in large quantities throughout. I do not think Koontz can write a sentence without drawing some mundane parallel.
I pointed these irritants out to my wife, as it had really not bothered her. I do not think she has read one of his books since. Hooray!
I too like King and have read most of his stuff. It’s fun. A couple of Barker’s books are good (Weaveworld for one). I have not found any other decent and consistent horror authors writing today either.
If anyone’s interested in the horror short story, there’s a great compilation edited by Joyce Carol Oates called American Gothic Tales. Worth checking out to see literary masters dip into the horrific genre and to see the quintessential choices (in Oates’ estimation) of the horror masters like Poe and Lovecraft.
Speaking of horror, this thread must be cursed. XP went down in a rather spectacular crash when I was responding to this post a moment ago. Anyhow…
Great picks. Anything by Aickman is great. Campbell’s really got a way of blending supernatural dread with real-world fears about sex and death. His Cold Print collection should be read by anyone interested in Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fhtagn! stuff. And TED Klein? What the hell ever happened to him? He was getting big in the mid-80s as editor of Twilight Zone magazine and those two books (one’s a novel, one’s a collection of novellas), then he just seemed to vanish into Innsmouth or something. Have to plug his name into Amazon and see what comes up, though I don’t think he’s written a novel in 14-15 years. He reminded me a bit of Clive Barker at the time. Klein also played with Cthulhu. One of the novellas–Man With A Black Horn?–is about Lovecraft being “right.” Good and creepy.
Here are some other offbeat considerations–though I don’t have a lot to recommend anymore, since I got rid of most of horror a few years ago…
James Herbert – Haunted (better than the movie from a couple of years ago, though the movie was a pretty faithful adaptation of what’s really a classic ghost story; and obviously the template for The Others)
Richard Matheson – Hell House (fun, though perhaps not as fun as the movie with Roddy McDowell)
Nicholas Conde – The Believers (a lot better than the Martin Sheen movie, with a much more appropriate ending)
Dennis Wheatley – The Devil Rides Out (a lot of fun–basically a battle between the forces of good led by anti-black magic guy Duke de Richleau and evil nasty Satanists; part of a series but the only one I’ve got; made into a Hammer movie)
William W. Johnstone – The Devil’s Kiss (fall down laughing awful; MST3K movie in book form; check out the following, taken from the page I flipped the book open to just now…)
“Tony, tell me about the goings-on at the funeral home.”
“It’s just whispered rumors among the elderly, Sam. That bodies are not being embalmed. Being buried whole.”
It’s understandable for koonts to be slammed on now. He puts out a book every six months and the they are pretty much crap. However, if you go back and read lightning and watchers, both are outstanding. Also the King straub collaboration black house was pretty good.
I’ll cop to liking The Watchers by Koontz back in the day. But I attritubute that mostly to my innate love for talking golden retrievers and hatred for mutant baboons. Corey Haim starred in the movie btw.