I’m a big fan of horror fiction. A quick browse through this blog will show you that I don’t really limit myself to any specific subgenres. Halloween and horror are inextricable, but I feel like certain types of horror are more Halloweeny than others. It’s just my personal opinion, but I feel like Halloweeny horror should contain an element of fun. The following is not a list of the scariest books I’ve read. It’s a list of horror novels that both trick and treat, books that will make excellent reading while you’re stuffing your face with the candy that you didn’t give out on the evening of the 31st. These are my recommendations for a good Halloween read.
Al Sarrantonio has written several books about Halloween, but I haven’t read those yet. I read 4 of his other books last year, and Moonbane and The Worms were the most enjoyable. They’re quick, fun reads, perfect for Halloween. One is about werewolves, and the other is about… worms. Even thinking about these makes me want to read more Sarrantonio.
I’m going to take it for granted that my readers are all familiar with H.P. Lovecraft. I read quite a lot of the extended Cthulu Mythos over the last 2 years, and aside from Howard’s own stories, I think my favourite Lovecraftian pastiche is Frank Belknap Long’s The Horror from the Hills. You wouldn’t need to be big into Lovecraft to enjoy this on its own either. It’s imaginative, exciting and a lot of fun. I’m pairing this with T.E.D. Klein’s Dark Gods as that contains a short story called ‘The Black Man with a Horn’ that features Long as its protagonist and parralels The Horror from the Hills in interesting ways. The other stories in Dark Gods are top notch horror writing. So, so good. (Klein’s The Ceremonies is phenomenal too, but it’s set in summer, so doesn’t really fit in with these Halloweeny vibes.)
I read quite a few Joe R. Lansdale books this year, and my favourite was definitely The Nightrunners. This is a horrible, violent story, but Lansdale’s style of writing is so easy to read that the book feels like fun. Lansdale’s The Drive-In books are fun too, but not quite spooky enough to recommend here.
These William W. Johnstone novels are not good books, but the horror elements at play within these novels are so over the top that I found them rather enjoyable. These are definitely “Paperbacks from Hell”, and if you’re into ridiculous horror B-movies, you might enjoy these. They’re utterly mental though. Seriously. Imagine an x-rated episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark directed by a Ted Nugent who’s high on crack and you might get an idea of what these books are like.
I know he’s an obvious choice, but let’s be real. Stephen King. You understand. I reckon Salem’s Lot and his short stories would be the best for this time of year. It’s probably that I’ve been conditioned to think this since childhood, but Stephen King’s fiction is exactly the kind of thing that I want to read at Halloween. Gross, creepy fun. Perfect.
Ray Bradbury is another obvious choice. His books are less trashy than the others I’m discussing here, but they definitely have the fun element that is key to good Halloween fiction. Something Wicked This Way Comes is an all round awesome book, and it’s set at Halloween. His most famous collection of short horror fiction is called The October Country. These two books are absolutely mandatory Halloween reading. He also wrote a kids book called The Halloween Tree. Bradbury is great.
I’m not going to recommend Dracula or Frankenstein here for a couple of reasons. You already know they exist, but both are also quite serious books. Varney the Vampire, which predates Dracula by about 50 years, is not a serious book. It was serialized over the course of two years, and it’s absolute trash. Characters disappear and turn into different people, the chapters are out of order, and it’s so long that it contradicts itself on several plot points. Despite all this, I found it very enjoyable. It’s bloody long though, so you’d better get started soon if you want to finish by Halloween
Pretty much anything by Harry Adam Knight/Simon Ian Childer would be great for Halloween. Both Harry and Simon were pseudonyms used by John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle. The books they wrote together under these names are trashy, gross out horror novels that are supremely entertaining. I absolutely loved these books. Slimer and Worm were my favourites. Classic stuff.
Michael Slade’s Ghoul is a horror novel with a Lovecraftian tinge about a murderous hard rock band that lives under a graveyard. It’s pure trash. I loved it. I read Brian Keene’s Ghoul last year too. It’s also about a creep that lives under a graveyard, and it too would make for some fine reading on a chilly October’s eve.
A few years ago, I chose my October reading based on the amount of pumpkins the books had on their covers. This was an awful idea. (The only decent book I’ve read with a pumpkin on the cover was the original Halloween novelisation.) Pumpkins are good, but they’re not enough. A good Halloween novel should be fun to read. The books listed in this post are easily digestible, super entertaining horror fiction that do a good job of encapsulating the fun and fear that make an enjoyable Halloween. Hopefully this post will help some indecisive readers find something juicy for All Hallow’s Eve. If you have any recommendations on exciting horror fiction, please leave a comment and let me know.