Here are my 6 picks for thrillers that cross into horror and are perfect, page-turning reads for the spooky season starting now!
INSOMNIA by Sarah Pinborogh-
Summary: In this twisty, mind-bending thriller from the bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes, Emma Averell worries that her crippling insomnia is a sign that she’s slowly going insane—like the mother she’s worked so hard to leave in her past.
My Thoughts: A race to the finish. This is one of the most stressful reading experiences! The pressure and anxiety building on the protagonist is directly transferred to the reader.
LITTLE SECRETS by Jennifer Hillier-
Summary: Overwhelmed by tragedy, a woman desperately tries to save her marriage in award-winning author Jennifer Hillier’s Little Secrets, a riveting novel of psychological suspense.
My Thoughts: This one is so freakin’ good. Hillier does a great job developing characters and a strong sense of what they look like and how they interact with each other. The title, LITTLE SECRETS is perfect because it speaks to all the little “white lies” people tell themselves and others. . Marin, the main protagonist, felt natural to me and as soon as she was described as looking like Selma Hayek, that’s who she became in my head. In fact, I had movie stars picked out for all the characters. The storyline is SO FUCKING COMPELLING.
JACKAL by Erin E. Adams
Summary: A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last. . . .
My Thoughts: I enjoyed the setup as Liz gets reacquainted with old friends and makes new ones. Once the conflict is introduced, in classic thriller form, everyone becomes a suspect and you can’t help formulating theories as to what’s happening. But this one will surprise you. Erin E. Adams definitely goes in an unexpected direction. I wasn’t sure how I felt about some of the big reveals, but I enjoyed the journey to get there. I will read more by this author for sure.
NUMBER ONE FAN by Meg Elison
Summary: Terrifying and timely, set against the backdrop of convention culture and the MeToo reckoning, Number One Fan unflinchingly examines the tension between creator and work, fandom and source material, and the rage of fans who feel they own fiction.
My Thoughts: Perfect for modern horror/thriller fans this story goes off the rails into pretty dark territory. A female author is captured by an obsessive fan and imprisoned in his basement. The tension and anxiety are off the charts!
MOTHERTHING by Ainslie Hogarth
Summary: A darkly funny domestic horror novel about a woman who must take drastic measures to save her husband and herself from the vengeful ghost of her mother-in-law.
My Thoughts: I found Ainslie Hogarth’s storytelling voice compatible and comfortable. I slipped into my favorite “reading zone” where I am at peak levels of entertainment-the words on the page translating those visuals into my mind like a little movie. And the humor! My goodness, this book is hilarious. Plenty of snarky, razor-sharp wit, and a way of using humor to diffuse hurt feelings. Quirky, unexpected, and charming, Motherthing uses all the right ingredients combined in equal measure to ensure a delicious experience.
GOOD NEIGHBORS by Sarah Langan
Summary: Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburb—pitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.
My Thoughts: This story is unhinged chaos! Readers will never guess how far these characters will go. The escalation, tension, and intensifying dread will have you on the edge of your seat!
Why You Need This Book: CAMP SLAUGHTER was so much fun! I cannot wait to see what happens next. Buy them both together: SERGIO GOMEZ WEBSITE
Why You Need This Book: I loved Gabino’s Coyote Songs so when I heard there was going to be a crime noir novel with Gabino’s attention to culture & setting, I knew this was going on my to-buy list. BUY IT HERE
Why You Need This Book: Pelayo’s Into the Forest and All the Way Through had a similar theme of missing women and unsolved murders. And it was one of the most memorable reads of 2022.
Definitely, something not to be ignored. Crime Scene should be on everyone’s to-read list: BUY IT HERE
Translated by Sarah Booker
Why You NeedThis Book: Reviews are so mixed and intriguing! When a book is that polarizing among readers it’s exciting to see how your experience will go. BUY IT HERE
Why You Need It: V. Castro’s The Queen of Cicadas was so cinematic and bone-chilling, The Haunting of Alejandra seems like another eerie story in the same vein. Pre-Order HERE
Why You Need This Book: Tor Nightfire is on a streak of amazing horror releases in 2022. They know how to curate talent and have a finger on the pulse of what readers want to read. This one had me at “A Head Full of Ghosts”. BUY IT HERE
“We stumbled upon an outcropping that veered out from the edge of the cliff. There was a space to tuck in beside it. We had worked our way around enough so that looking down to the canyon floor below us, we saw a caravan of thieves. They all sat on horseback except for a fat man with broken teeth. He held Gina with his arm around her neck, holding her down by his belly. He shouted out and his coarse voiced banked against the walls and echoed.
“Tulip! Hey, Tulip! Look at what I’ve got!”
He twisted his arm and her face pointed skyward. I was red from the sun and his chokehold. She gurgled and spit, gasping for a breath.
“I have your friend,” he shouted. “In fact, when we’re done, we will all have your friend.”
He laughed a deep, dirty, belly laugh.
“She misses you,” he continued, “and has invited you to watch the show. She likes me the best and said I can go first and last.”
He pulled her head back down to about belly height and punched her several times in the face.
“She likes it a little rough.”
Beside me I could hear Anne grunting. I put my hand on her and pointed below.
“Two of the riders are not there. They’re up here someplace trying to find us,” I said. “You can’t move or you’ll give away our position”
“But Gina,” she said.
I couldn’t answer her. Looking down I could see the ground beneath Gina turning dark.
“She is so excited that she has wet herself,” the fat man said. “She wants me very badly.”
Bent over, she got a hand free and slammed it against his groin area. He screamed and doubled over but didn’t release her. With the weight of his body pinning her, he punched her several more times. Two others jumped off their horses and helped him stand up. They grabbed Gina, retied her hands, and forced her back up on the horse. When it was over, the pig looked back up at the walls.
“we’re going now,” he said. “I hope you can find her. You can have all the pieces you can find. There is only one piece that I want.”
He climbed up onto his mount and the troop rode off. We backed out of our perch, shocked and frightened.
“That’s it, isn’t it? They want us to come after them so they can kill us all.”
“Yes,” a male voice answered, and we turned to find the two riders standing there with their guns pointed at us.
“Throw your weapons over the edge,” one of them said.
There was no option, so we did as we were told. You could hear the rifles clatter and bounce against the side of the walls as they dropped into the canyon below. He wiggled his gun at me.
“The pistol too,” he said. “And the belt.”
I unbuckled it and dropped the leather at my feet.
“Kick it over,” he said.
“I turned away from him and kicked the pistol and the belt over the edge. In that same instant, I pulled my own little pig sticker from my pants, spun, and threw the knife at the talker. I remember hearing his scream as the flash from the other fellow’s pistol blinded me.”
In this stunning new collection of four horror stories, award-winning author Rachel Harrison explores themes of body image, complicated female friendship, heartbreak, and hauntings.
FAIRY TALE by Stephen King
Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours.
THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE SINCE WE LAST SPOKE AND OTHER MISFORTUNES-Eric LaRocca
Three dark and disturbing horror stories from an astonishing new voice, including the viral-sensation tale of obsession, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. For fans of Kathe Koja, Clive Barker and Stephen Graham Jones. Winner of the Splatterpunk Award for Best Novella.
FULL IMMERSION-Gemma Amor
A traumatized woman with amnesia finds her own dead body and sets out to uncover the truth of her demise in a race against time, sanity, crumbling realities and the ever-present threat of the Silhouette.
BOUND FEET-Kelsea Yu
On the night of the Hungry Ghost Moon, when spirits can briefly return to the living world, Jodi Wu and her best friend sneak into Portland’s Chinese Garden and Ghost Museum. Kneeling before the pond where Jodi’s toddler drowned one year before, they leave food offerings and burn joss paper—and Jodi prays that Ella’s ghost will return for the night.
To distract Jodi from her grief, the two friends tell each other ghost stories as they explore the museum. They stop at the main display, a centuries-old pair of lotus slippers belonging to a woman whose toes were broken and bound during childhood. While reading the woman’s story, Jodi hears her daughter’s voice.
As Jodi desperately searches the garden, it becomes apparent that Ella isn’t the only ghost they’ve awakened. Something ancient with a slow, shuffling step lurks in the shadows…
GHOST EATERS-Clay McLeod Chapman
“A Gothic-punk graveyard tale about what haunts history and what haunts the human soul. An addicting read that draws you into its descent from the first page.”—Chuck Wendig, New York Times best-selling author of The Book of Accidents
NO GODS FOR DROWNING-Hailey Piper
IN THE BEGINNING, MAN WAS PREY
WITHOUT THE GODS, THEY’LL BE PREY AGAIN
HOUSE OF HUNGER-Alexis Henderson
A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power in this dark and enthralling Gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.
This book was a limited, exclusive release through Earthling Press and it’s currently out of print. Look for it to get a big re-release through Tor Nightfire soon. There’s an orphanage, a home for boys. They’re being raised up by some priests-some are good father figures and some are not. One night, the orphanage is visited by some strange men and bad things happen. After this night, some of the boys exhibit strange behavior. This escalates in unexpected ways. I have not read a book this compelling and actually terrifying in a long, long time.
By Tananarive Due
There are fourteen stories and a novella. Each story showcases Tananarive Due’s ability to draw readers into a provocative narrative across a variety of genres. What especially stood out to me is that Due has a love of history—it doesn’t matter if she is writing a dystopian, science fiction, or apocalyptic tale-historical elements are present and accounted for. Even her young protagonists seem to have a special curiosity about historical events. This aspect of her storytelling adds a special authentic flavor.
Hearts Strange and Dreadful
By Tim McGregor
Tim McGregor introduces his readers to Hester Stokely, a capable young woman orphaned at an early age. She has been adopted into her aunt and uncle’s family to help care for the Stokelys’ modest home and farmland. There is an ominous dread building behind the scenes; something sinister and evil. At the core of this novel is a love story between two young characters. Prepare to be hopelessly invested in this book.
By Ronald Malfi
A coming of age story set in the 1990s against the backdrop of something evil happening in a small town. Five friends set out to uncover the truth so they can catch a killer preying on the people in their hometown. My favorite scenes were whenever all of the boys were together for pages of dialog—it’s like you’re right there as a fly on the wall witnessing real boys in the summer of their youth—all their struggles, joys, attitudes, emotions are expressed realistically by an author who clearly lived it and can pull from a deep well of knowledge and experience.
Mapping the Interior
By Stephen Graham Jones
Junior is 12 years old, raised by his mother, a widow, who lives outside of the Indian reservation to “save her boys from drowning”. Junior’s brother, Dino, has special needs. Jones pulls the reader into Junior’s headspace effortlessly. Full of everything that makes me tick as a reader. Symbolism, foreshadowing, suspense, tension, fear, concern, and an emotional tidal wave that sucks you out to sea and spits you out.
By Nick Cutter
Cutter reminds me of Stephen King in the way that he can make you fall in love with his characters through in-depth, detailed backstory and character development. He’s brilliant at it. But all of this character development creates risk for you the reader because you don’t want what is happening to these young boys on their camping trip to happen. It’s painful. This book will absolutely disgust and upset you.
By S. P. Miskowski
S. P. Miskowski’s narrative seamlessly tracks all three, main characters through childhood, teenage years, and on into womanhood. Each woman is unique and identifiable. Most noticeably to me is the author’s ability to explore a variety of personal issues and struggles that the women face and translate them to the readers in a way that feels authentic and intimate. I’m recommending this to horror fans that love the following: Coming of age, occult, small-town drama, paranormal/demonic activities.
The Dead Girls Club
By Damien Angelica Walters
In the story from 1991, four friends form a Dead Girls Club where they get together to talk about true crime stories, serial killers, and, well…dead girls. They also talk about parents, music, movies, and their changing bodies. It felt authentic as several of the discussions hit on topics that concerned me and my friends when we were in junior high. Becca becomes fixated on telling her friends stories of The Red Lady at their Dead Girls Club. Ultimately, it’s her obsession with The Red Lady that leads to a tragic and mysterious event-ending club meetings and friendships.
30 years later, Heather—Becca’s best friend—is suddenly haunted by the past. I recommend this book to fans of coming-of-age stories, authentic female protagonists, rich-detailed storytelling, fast-paced thrillers with horror elements, and unreliable narrators with a big mystery to solve. I had a fun time with this one.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism
By Grady Hendrix
What you’re signing up for when you read this book is the general plot of The Exorcist paired with Carrie vibes but lightened up with Hendrix’s unique brand of iconic cultural identification/nostalgia that looks a lot like a blender smoothie of Stranger Things, My So-Called Life and every 80s sitcom. Overall, I recommend this book for anyone—not just fans of 80s pop culture (although they would love this!) and not just fans of horror books, but everyone who likes a good story with witty dialog, great characters, and a well-crafted horror plot, with few laughs. How does that *not* sound like a good time?
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock
By Paul Tremblay
Paul Tremblay can write teens. He’s got them down. I loved all the teens in this story almost too much. I loved the mother, Elizabeth in the same way I loved Winona Ryder’s character in the first season of Stranger Things when she’s hell-bent on finding her missing son. This book wrecked me. This story draws you in, grabs you by the heart, and gut-punches you. Hurts so good.
John Boden’s storytelling voice comes from a place of quiet introspection, a knack for remembering details, and a rare talent for expressing emotion. It’s authentic and genuine. Jedi Summer is a semi-autobiographical telling of a memorable summer in a boy’s life. Each chapter is a vignette or stitch in time that when read in one sitting is woven together to create a warm, nostalgic blanket for the reader to snuggle up under. Highly recommend although it is currently out of print and looking to be re-released with Cemetery Dance Paperbacks.
Of Foster Homes and Flies
By Chad Lutzke
Chad Lutzke has a unique brand of storytelling. This is a poignant story about a child who wakes to find his mother has died while watching TV. In shock, he decides to just go about his life so he doesn’t miss out on a spelling bee at school.It’s actually amazing to me what he managed to do in less than 200 pages—the depth of character he developed with the protagonist, a 12-year-old boy named Denny, is actually a powerful testament to Chad’s ability as a writer.My favorite thing about this novella is the overwhelming control it had over my feelings. Just in a few short paragraphs of a scene, I laughed, cried and raged reading Denny’s reactions to his unfortunate circumstances.
What can you do when you’re reeling from trauma but you’ve tried it all? Counselling, yoga, pills, meditation, art, healthy living… none of it makes a dent. What’s left?
Magpie is out of ideas. She’s desperate enough to try anything. Just when she thinks her life can get no worse, she discovers herself, or rather her own dead body, partially buried in the mudbank of a river. A man stands by, a familiar stranger. What does he want? And why can’t she remember getting here? Why can’t she remember anything? Unbeknownst to her, two pairs of eyes watch from behind an observation screen, in a room filled with computers and sensors. An experiment is unfolding, but is Magpie the subject, or practitioner? Reality becomes a slippery concept. And beyond the glass is something worse still: a hint of an outline, shaped in darkness…Magpie realises all too soon that her journey has transformed from healing to survival. She must become the hunter rather than the hunted, with her missing memories the prey. In turn brutal, beautiful and absolutely terrifying, Full Immersion is the latest speculative horror from Gemma Amor.
WHY YOU NEED THIS:
Gemma Amor is well known in the indie-horror market. Her self-illustrated short story collections are extremely popular among horror fans and all of her novellas/novels are met with high praise. Gemma is an insta-buy author for me. I recommend keeping an eye on her career and buying literally anything she releases into the world.
An abused, grief-stricken, and impoverished Sonny has all but given up on life. That is, until he meets death, by way of the Grim Reaper. The Reaper, a junk food loving, poetry reading, cigarette-addicted entity, has no time to waste as he searches for a suitable successor who would become “Death” for the next millennium. By training the boy in the ways of death and dying, Reaper grooms his young apprentice and through suspenseful and horror-laced events, he unknowingly gives Sonny something he never intended: Something to live for.Author C.S. Fritz gives readers a true horror gem, brimming with terror and heart.
WHY YOU NEED IT:
That cover! And I keep hearing a lot of buzz surrounding this title.
From the USA Today bestselling author of the international sensation Baby Teeth comes a claustrophobic psychological thriller about one woman’s nightmarish spiral while quarantined with her mother.
Grace isn’t exactly thrilled when her newly widowed mother, Jackie, asks to move in with her. They’ve never had a great relationship, and Grace likes her space—especially now that she’s stuck at home during a pandemic. Then again, she needs help with the mortgage after losing her job. And maybe it’ll be a chance for them to bond—or at least give each other a hand.
But living with Mother isn’t for everyone. Good intentions turn bad soon after Jackie moves in. Old wounds fester; new ones open. Grace starts having nightmares about her disabled twin sister, who died when they were kids. And Jackie discovers that Grace secretly catfishes people online—a hobby Jackie thinks is unforgivable.
When Jackie makes an earth-shattering accusation against her, Grace sees it as an act of revenge, and it sends her spiraling into a sleep-deprived madness. As the walls close in, the ghosts of Grace’s past collide with a new but familiar threat: Mom.
WHY YOU NEED IT:
I absolutely loved BABY TEETH and will buy pretty much anything from this author.
On his 59th birthday, Tyson Parks—a famous, but struggling, horror writer—receives an antique desk from his partner, Sarah, in the hopes it will rekindle his creative juices. Perhaps inspire him to write another best-selling novel and prove his best years aren’t behind him.
A continent away, a mysterious woman makes inquiries with her sources around the world, seeking the whereabouts of a certain artifact her family has been hunting for centuries. With the help of a New York City private detective, she finally finds what she’s been looking for.
It’s in the home of Tyson Parks.
Meanwhile, as Tyson begins to use his new desk, he begins acting… strange. Violent. His writing more disturbing than anything he’s done before. But publishers are paying top dollar, convinced his new work will be a hit, and Tyson will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound success. Even if it means the destruction of the ones he loves.
WHY YOU NEED IT:
I buy everything Fracassi puts out. His book, BOYS IN THE VALLEY blew my mind. He has short story collections, novels, and novellas, just look him up and buy it all. He recently signed with Orbit and Tor Nightfire for several books-a star on the rise.
A woman is haunted by the Mexican folk demon La Llorona as she unravels the dark secrets of her family history in this ravishing and provocative horror novel.
Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her. Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.
When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors. Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.
But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever.
WHY YOU NEED IT:
Another star on the rise. V. Castro is on fire right now. She quickly went from one of the hottest names in indie fiction to signing big pub deals in the last few years. I’ve read everything she releases and loved it all. Just buy them all. Read everything with her name on it.
Three dark and disturbing horror stories from an astonishing new voice, including the viral-sensation tale of obsession, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. For fans of Kathe Koja, Clive Barker and Stephen Graham Jones. A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s—a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires. A couple isolates themselves on a remote island in an attempt to recover from their teenage son’s death when a mysterious young man knocks on their door during a storm…
And a man confronts his neighbor when he discovers a strange object in his backyard, only to be drawn into an ever-more dangerous game.
From Bram Stoker Award finalist Eric LaRocca, this is devastating, beautifully written horror from one of the genre’s most cutting-edge voices.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
WHY YOU NEED IT:
Sorry not sorry but Eric LaRocca is another indie horror author who skyrocketed to big publishing overnight. Provocative, tantalizing, unique stories readers will never forget. Definitely, one to watch and insta-buy.
TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY by Linwood Barclay– is a gripping psychological thriller about a formerly missing woman who has suddenly returned under mysterious circumstances.
One weekend, while Andrew Mason was on a fishing trip, his wife, Brie, vanished without a trace. Most everyone assumed Andy had got away with murder—it’s always the husband, isn’t it?—but the police could never build a strong case against him…Andy’s peaceful world is about to shatter. One day, a woman shows up at his old address, screaming, “Where’s my house? What’s happened to my house?” And then, just as suddenly as she appeared, the woman—who bears a striking resemblance to Brie—is gone. . INSOMNIA by Sarah Pinborough–
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, MADNESS LIES . . .
Emma can’t sleep.
CHECK THE WINDOWS.
It’s been like this since her big 4-0 started getting closer.
LOCK THE DOORS.
Her mother stopped sleeping just before her own fortieth birthday.
She went mad and did the unthinkable because of it.
LOOK IN ON THE CHILDREN.
Is that what’s happening to Emma?
WHY CAN’T SHE SLEEP? . THINGS WE DO IN THE DARK by Jennifer Hillier– Things We Do in the Dark is a brilliant new thriller from Jennifer Hillier, the award-winning author of the breakout novels Little Secrets and Jar of Hearts. Paris Peralta is suspected of killing her celebrity husband, and her long-hidden past now threatens to destroy her future. (I loved LITTLE SECRETS!) . OLD COUNTRY by Matt Query & Harrison Query– Based on the Reddit sensation, a horror thriller of a young couple who buys the perfect, secluded house—only to discover the terror within.
Here are some “Summerween” book recommendations for you! . -If you haven’t read SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury, this Summerween is your moment! Take it! . -COMMODORE by Philip Fracassi is summer in a book. Some kids go looking for a haunted car in a junkyard…need I say more? . -THE MISSING by Sarah Langan is such a good summer book! It’s like a retro horror when this small town is taken over by an evil entity/plague. I just finished it. . -STARGAZERS by LP Hernandez I just want to thank the #bookstagram community for showing up for this book. Reading, reviewing, promoting, it really means a lot. I chose stories from authors I feel need a bigger audience and these novellas do an excellent job showcasing their voice. If you haven’t read this one, it’s a one-sitting book for sure-like an hour or two and you won’t regret it! . WE ARE HERE TO HURT EACH OTHER by Paula D. Ashe-Now is the time to get into this dark, scary-as-fuck collection of short Clive-Barkerish tales. I will read more by this author 100% . MESTIZA BLOOD by V. Castro is a collection of short, spicy, spooky, sassy, horror stories that are perfect for reading outside soaking up some sun.
Del Howison is an author, journalist, actor (see IMDB), and the Bram Stoker Award-winning editor of the anthology Dark Delicacies: Original Tales of Terror and the Macabre by the World’s Greatest Horror Writers. His short story The Lost Herd was turned into the premiere (and highest rated) episode, The Sacrifice, for the series Fear Itself. His dark western novel The Survival of Margaret Thomas was a finalist for the Peacemaker Award given out by the Western Fictioneers. He has been nominated for over half a dozen awards including the Shirley Jackson Award and the Black Quill. He is the co-founder and owner (with his wife, Sue) of Dark Delicacies, a book and gift store known as “The Home of Horror,” located in Burbank, California. The store has won the “Il Posto Nero” award from Italy and has been inducted into the Rondo Hatton Hall of Fame.
“Coming-of-age” is generally perceived as taking place over the period when an adolescent makes the mental and emotional leap to adulthood. But very often that is not the case, especially in certain genres, such as horror, when the emotionally stunted individual can just as easily be an adult. In literature, like a summer’s end, youth is over after one great adventure that comes too quickly, and the adults that emerge from that traumatic season are many times filled with their own emotional trauma that will never go away. That’s good for the reader but bad for the character. If handled incorrectly Coming-of-Age can be soapy and boring. But in the hands of a skilled ink slinger, it is an exciting and breathtaking journey filled with emotional intensity. Even a misspent youth has a learning curve, and these stories take you through it. I’m going to mention a few of my favorites that I hope you will read if you haven’t already.
On this special episode, I’m joined by Del Howison, owner of Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA and lifelong horror movie enthusiast. We discuss the movies that made us horror fans, usage of CGI in movies today, and what makes a great scary movie.
Keep an eye on this space to learn more about Del Howison’s new book coming soon from Pandi Press!
Moon Lake by Joe Lansdale is this year’s summer read. I hesitate to mention that I burned through several chapters in my backyard hammock because it sounds cliche, but I really did and it was magical.
Lansdale’s storytelling voice feels like coming home and sleeping in your own bed. It’s welcoming, comfortable, and familiar. The main character, Daniel Russell, captures reader’s hearts immediately at age thirteen when the story begins. A sudden and life-threatening trauma leaves Daniel an orphan, and he is temporarily placed with an African American family who takes him in as though he were their own kin.
The small town of Long Lincoln, Texas, in the late sixties, does not look favorably upon a young white boy assimilating so well into the home of a Black family, no matter how well they’re taking care of his needs or how happy he seems to be there. Lansdale does an excellent job exploring social issues while preserving Daniel’s naiveté as he comes of age.
I am a longtime fan of what I like to call ‘horror with heart’. Raised on the character-driven stories of Stephen King, I have developed a hunger for fictional people that I can emotionally invest in. Horror is at its best when the lives of characters you care about are at risk. In Moon Lake, readers watch Daniel process through grief, loss, first love, loneliness, betrayal, abandonment, and fear. We go through it with him. His struggle becomes our struggle. Ultimately, we want nothing more than to see Daniel get closure and find a community of people that will love him so that he can find some sense of belonging.
These basic human needs are at the core of every Lansdale story I’ve read.
Moon Lake transitions into a Southern Gothic crime-noir when grown Daniel returns to Long Lincoln after he gets a call from the local sheriff with some new information about his childhood trauma. Like any small-town horror or crime noir drama, once someone starts digging around in the past, peeling back layers and uncovering secrets, the townsfolk find out and put up their defenses. The town of Long Lincoln is a major character itself. Just like Lansdale’s famous fictional town of LaBorde, Texas, from the Hap & Leonard series, Long Lincoln is rife with ingrown systemic racism and has a long history of corruption in local government. The townies don’t take too kindly to anyone stirring up trouble or asking too many questions.
Daniel Russell teams up with some vibrant characters to assist in his urgent quest to solve a decades-old mystery, both for his own sake and for the sake of everyone else involved. There is so much to love about this story–I especially enjoy Lansdale’s sense of humor that helps lend a certain authenticity to the narrative. Life is never serious one hundred percent of the time, and horror doesn’t have to take itself so seriously. Characters, even the ones you fall in love with as a reader, do not have to be morally pure or make the best decisions–they can be flawed and a little fucked up, because honestly, if they’re not, who can relate?
It’s easy to single out specific characters and assign motives and theories to their involvement in Daniel’s mystery. At the end of every chapter, Lansdale tempts readers to keep investing, stay hungry and curious. Moon Lake seduces its audience into a smoldering, tantalizing mystery peppered with humor and heart. Don’t miss it!