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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Horror of the Printed Page

[Tonight I bring you a special contribution from award-winning book blogger Katiebabs of Babbling About Books, and More. So let's shut off the DVD players for a minute and think about the books that really scare us, shall we?]

The horror! The horror! Quick, can anyone tell me where that line is from? And no, I’m not talking about one of the most famous movie lines muttered from Marlon Brando in the Francis Ford Coppola classic, Apocalypse Now.

It may seem unfortunate that most of the screams and thrills people find are in movies. I’m a true horror movie buff and I love having the ever loving shit scared out of me as I watch some poor sap die a horrible death from some maniac or supernatural monster. But it may come as a surprise that you can feel these same emotions in books. One of my favorite genres is horror. There has been many times where I have been sitting in my bedroom late at night all alone and scare myself to death by what I am reading.

There are hundreds of books I could recommend that can send chills up and down your spine but since I have limited space, I will give you some of my all time favorite tales of terror. You may find yourself surprised that these books will give you nightmares.

Many of the horror stories I have love are short tales of murder, mayhem and death. One of my all time favorite horror authors is Edgar Allen Poe. My appreciation for Poe began when I watched Vincent Price starring in many screen adaptations of Poe’s work. Two Poe stories that always give me the willies are The Tell-Tale Heart and The Masque of the Red Death. The Tell-Tale Heart is a chilling telling by the narrator as he tells about a murder he committed and how he got rid of the body. The police come to him to ask him questions about the missing person. They have no clue that he is the killer, and he is about to get away with the murder. But as the police interview him, he begins to hear a noise, a sound that won’t go away. The sound becomes louder to his ears, till he is near insanity, wanting it to stop:

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his hideous heart!"

The Masque of the Red Death takes place during a masquerade ball where the guests are murdered by some unknown killer. The question is, who is this killer and why is he targeting these people? The ways they die are very gruesome. But no one is safe because the Red Death is actually a terrible plague that has swept across the land.

Don’t Look Now by Daphne de Maurier is another short story that was made into a cult classic movie in 1973 with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. A married couple are on vacation, trying to get pass their grief over the death of their little girl who drowned. The husband begins to see a little blonde girl in a red coat everywhere. He starts to believe she is his daughter because his daughter had drowned in the same type of coat this strange little girl is wearing. When he finally catches up to the little girl, the twist will shock the ever loving crap out of you. The ending to the story gave me nightmares for weeks. And if you decide to see the movie, don’t be surprised if the last two minutes makes you piss your pants from fright.

The one type of creature, that makes me want to hide in a closet and pray for a quick death if they find me are zombies. I blame George Romero for that lifelong fear. But without Richard Matheson there would be no Night of the Living Dead. Matheson wrote a story in 1954 that has influenced many horror authors and Hollywood filmmakers. I Am Legend helped develop the vampire and zombie genre by building upon the idea of an apocalypse of disease that will destroy the world. This story is the reason Stephen King wanted to write horror and responsible for flesh eating zombies becoming such a cultural phenomenon in movies and literature. It is about the one soul survivor left on Earth after a virus has turned humans into undead mindless zombies. The reader goes through the experience alongside Robert as he tries not to go crazy because every night he is stalked by these creatures. Imagine if you were the last person on Earth with no where to turn to for help, only you own thoughts to keep you company as you try to stay alive or become food.

Speaking of Stephen King, he is my idol, my reason for reading and wanting to write like he does. He has shaped the horror, science fiction and fantasy genre alike. It is so hard to choose his best work. The three that come to mind are The Stand, It and The Shining. With The Shining, King is able to tap into a person’s inner demons and the eventual break down of a person’s mind because of those demons. Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, this is one of the finest books I have ever read. It gave me an intense dislike of clowns and the underground sewage system, and The Stand is my number one favorite book of all time. The Stand taps into the desolation and fear in people of what is right and wrong and how one would survive if an epidemic such as a virus wiping out the world did occur.

Many of the books I have listed are classics. There is one final book I would like to mention that was just released this year and you may come as a surprise because it is a Young Adult book written for the teen audience. The Forest of Hand and Teeth by Carrie Ryan is such a book that in my past twenty odd years of reading scared me to the point I was looking over my shoulder as I read, expecting the monsters from the book to be standing there. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a cross between M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. This book has tapped deep into my fears and psyche. Imagine the world filled with zombies who want to eat you. You have no where to turn, for they are all around you, crying in hunger, waiting for the right moment to attack. Imagine the only thing that keeps you from being infected by them and becoming one of them or becoming zombie food is a fence that keeps them out. What if that fence was breached and they were able to come through? This is a book not for the faint of heart. There is death and destruction, filled with violence and fear. The fear is not surviving from the monsters whose only goal is to consume the living. But is this truly surviving? (For more on The Forest of Hands and Teeth, you can read my review here: http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/2009/03/forest-of-hands-and-teeth-book-review.html)

I thank B-Sol for giving me this opportunity to talk about my favorite horror reads. What are some of your favorite horror books or authors you can recommend to fellow horror fans?

Katiebabs from Babbling About Books and More! http://kbgbabbles.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @Katiebabs


Anonymous said...

The Shining, hands down, is my all time favorite fright book. When you have to put it down while reading it late at night (I'm looking at you shubbery that comes alive!), you know you've got a great and creepy novel.

RayRay said...

Excellent post. In light of some recent posts, perhaps B-Sol should change the name of his blog to "The Library of Horror"?

I read a good deal of King a while's back. Pet Semetary scared the bejeezuz out of me when I read it in my tender years, and found the film adaption captured a good deal of the same dread. I also thought The Mist was excellent. And of course, The Shining.

It is to my shame I have never read The Stand, but it is on "the list."

Clive Barker was also a fave of mine, and his Books of Blood, especially the novella Cabal [which inspired Nightbreed], was fantastic. Barker had a knack for being even more dreadful than King, but King is more 'dark woods' scary.

I do have some fantastic comic book adaptions of Clive Barker, though, which bring some of his stories even more to life, and in particular I can recall that In the Hills the Cities was truly wonderful.

B-Sol said...

Yes, we have been quote literary around here as of late, haven't we? I'm a big Barker fan too, I particularly enjoyed The Inhuman Condition. He is one sick, sick man.

RayRay said...

As we have lamented, we collectively do not read enough.

The Inhuman Condition is sick, but in that same volume of Books of Blood is The Age of Desire. That story is at the intersection of horror and porn. REALLY sick stuff.

But all of Barker's stories are demented in some way. During his Books of Blood days he was all about taking it to the next level.

KT Grant said...

I have been meaning to read Clive Barker. Would you say he is more gory or scary?

Anytime B-Sol wants me to come back to recommend more spooky reads, I would be more than happy to. :D

RayRay: The Stand will blow you away! I have read all 1200 pages more times than I can count. The scene where two of the characters must walk through the Lincoln Tunnel from Manhattan to NJ, always gives me the chills. Mainly because I have to go through there everyday for work.

Charles said...

Couldn't agree more in regards to King. I think the development of character, the care and understanding as well as "getting" childhood create a great story. IT is a phenomenal book in that regard. It gets overblown and bloated at times, but there are certain scenes that are stunning and unnerving. Also check out Rage and the Long Walk, two early short stories by King that are superb.

Other good horror has to be the great fictional histories by Erik Larson. Devil in the White City is a fantastic story of America's first serial killer. Great story, well-researched and a nice portrayal of America during the World's Fair.

Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby has to be on the list as is Blatty's The Exorcist. I thought Blatty's work provides some nice meat to some crucial supporting roles.

Lovecraft is awesome in an atmospheric sense. Algernon Blackwood has some good stuff with The Damned.

Going out on a limb and suggesting The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Bleak, stark, and terrifying. The decisions that have to be made, the loneliness, it's gut-wrenching.

RayRay said...

KB: I know The Stand will blow me away. I thought the mini-series was pretty boss [showing my age with that]. And I have heard a lot about the Lincoln Tunnel sequence. It's just a matter of timing.

I have read quite a bit of King and enjoyed all of it: Different Seasons, The Talisman, Carrie, Skeleton Crew, the first two Dark Tower books, Eyes of the Dragon, Misery, and I am sure a few others.

I would have to say that Clive Barker is gorier, but his chief trait when compared to King is he is weirder. King is, for lack of a better phrase, more "down to earth," and Barker is more "out there." King is certainly better at character development, but Barker's tales, especially when he is on, can take you further away from the world you know. Read them both, and then compare King's Dark Tower to Barker's Imajica and you'll know what I mean.

Charles: Lovecraft is just awesome. Period.

Charles said...


Can't argue on that point! I guess, to elaborate, for me the reason I love Lovecraft is for the atmosphere he creates. The stories and his status as an icon of literary horror is unquestioned, but I was drawn to just how Lovecraft isolates mood and creates unique tapestries of horror.

I need to get on reading Barker, I feel a bit ashamed I've only read the more prominent works by him.

mike snoonian said...

The first half of Salem's Lot does such a good job of amping up suspense and tension that I have trouble reading it when home alone.
If you haven't alredy, try Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel, The Historian. It puts a chilling spin on the historical Dracula (Vlad Tepes) and combines it with vampire folklore.

B-Sol said...

Katie, you're definitely welcome back in the Vault anytime! And don't think I forgot my guest post for you. Today was a busy one, but I'm definitely working on it!

buglady said...

To answer Katie's opening question, I believe her quote comes from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (which we read in my High School English class. Another great book/movie is Richard Matheson's Hell House which was made into the film The Legend of Hell House. I've always loved the film, and read the novel last year... both are terrific and recommended.

Anonymous said...

The best horror book I have ever read is only available for download. It is Fishman's Queen of Darkness. I have never read such horrifying details of events I thought were crazy!! I walk the streets at night looking around and questioning myself "I wonder if she is like Bathory?" www.fishmansqueenofdarkness.info

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