Monday, October 19, 2015

Who's On Your Bookshelf?

We've talked about scary movies the last two weeks, but what about books? After all, most of you reading this are writers.



I prefer my horror in short form these days, though it wasn't always that way. My first tastes of horror were in collections of urban myths and middle grade horror stories. I still remember a few of the stories in those first books.

After that, I quickly resorted to sneaking Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz books off my parents' bookshelves. Then I found more and more novels at the library. Ouida Sebestyen's The Girl in the Box has stuck with me since middle school. Given, this is likely considered suspense instead of horror, but as a pre-teen girl reading about a teenage girl being kidnapped and left in a dark hole with only a bottle of water and a typewriter, it was certainly frightening.

As a teenager, I returned to short stories, discovering the "Best of" collections. Ellen Datlow's name became synonymous with awesome horror short stories, followed closely by Stephen Jones. And roundabout I went. Novels to shorts to novels to shorts.

In reading through Nightmare Magazine's Best Horror list, I've come to discover that a lot of horror authors have a hard time keeping the suspense going enough to also keep the reader tense and on edge. With some of them, I've made it through three-quarters of the book before anything horror-related has happened. That's too long to set the scene before reaching the horror. Yet from this list, a book that isn't actually horror captured my attention and kept me riveted to the end, terrified at how it might end. The Handmaid's Tale appears to be listed as Literary (and Science Fiction, interestingly enough). But it's my #1 read on the Top 100 list, so far, and it has maintained that position for several months now. Given, I'm not counting the books from the list I'd already read, but I may reread those once I finish the ones I've never read before, and then we'll see where I rank them.

With short stories, the writer can pack a punch. There's just enough time to set the scene then wallop the reader with the horror. And it's possible to draw tension out without the in betweens getting dull.

Stephen King is, of course, a favorite author of mine, both in novels and short stories. I'm delighted that he's continued putting out short stories, despite having found success with his novels.

Stephen Graham Jones is a newer author, but one that puts out both novels and short stories. He's an excellent horror author with a very different voice, if you're looking for new authors. Zombie Bake-Off is a fun novel of his, and The Ones That Got Away is a great collection of short stories. Of those short stories, the one that will forever be in my head is "Father, Son, Holy Rabbit." The moment of realization is intense and heartbreaking.

And, of course, if it's short fiction you're looking for, who better than Edgar Allan Poe? It's been a long time since I read him, and I've been thinking about dusting off my big, fat collection of Poe's works. "The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of my favorites, and it's a piece I performed in high school.

Who are your favorite horror authors, both old and new? Your favorite novels? Short stories? Do you prefer short stories or novels when it comes to horror and suspense? Why?

May you find your Muse.


28 comments:

  1. Stephen King is an all time favorite - both his stories and novels.

    A relatively recent horror read that has stayed with me is BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman - terrifying!

    I'm making a note of that collection by Jones....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard of Malerman, but not that book. Good to know it's terrifying!

      Delete
  2. Zombie Bake Off. Funny.
    Not big into horror. Guess I would have to pick Clive Barker.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The whole book is funny. Great combo of zombies and PTA moms.

      Delete
  3. King is my favorite too. IT is one of my all time top five. I used to only read novels, but short stories can pack quite a punch too. Christopher Buehlman is an excellent horror writer that I discovered recently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't heard that name. Will have to check him out.

      Delete
  4. I used to read everything King wrote but his books started to all sound the same to me. I read some Koontz now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you been reading Koontz's new stuff or his old stuff? I'm woefully behind on both Koontz and King for their current stuff.

      Delete
  5. King is a favorite of both of us, even after all these years. My parents were always supportive of my weirdness/love of books, so I didn't have to sneak those King books off the shelf. No, my mom gave them to me, so I was that weird kid sitting in fourth grade reading It while everyone else was reading Goosebumps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In all fairness, my parents were okay with it once they knew I was reading It, but I wasn't positive they would be. After that, I had free choice of their shelves. And I was that kid, too, which earned me the nickname Shannon King (my maiden name started with a "K.")

      Delete
  6. I haven't actually read a single King book. I started to read The Shining and Under the Dome but they couldn't keep me invested. I lost interested after the first few chapters.

    I'm going to have to look for Zombie Bake-Off. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Under the Dome wasn't my favorite, but I did like The Shining. Zombie Bake-Off is a kick.

      Delete
  7. I like "The Mask of the Red Death."
    SO freaky.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's been awhile since I read that, but it was definitely good.

      Delete
  8. I've liked Stephen King forever, and Dean Koontz, but I don't read either of them as much as I used to. I did however pick up Rose Madder recently, which I hadn't read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read either of them in awhile either. I just bought a new short story collection by King, but haven't read it yet.

      Delete
  9. Giles Blunt is a Canadian crime fiction author who does horror too - I read everything he writes

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Another author I haven't heard of! I'll have to check out his horror.

      Delete
  10. I'm only just getting into horror stuff and haven't read much. I've read a lot of King's short stories. They're pretty good. I've read one of his sons' books. It was OK, though not exactly horrific, but more paranormal. I tend to get my short horror doses from internet stories, haha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like Joe Hill's books, but haven't read them all. Just Nos4atu and Heart Shaped Box, I think it is.

      Delete
  11. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, I could go on. For short, Tanith Lee is a favorite. I prefer the novel to the short though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All awesome horror authors! The short stories are probably a phase for me. Too little time to read. Bite size stories are a good thing.

      Delete
  12. I like short stories, heck I like it all. Stephen King is and will always be a favorite - I'm still collecting his books. He has some of the best shorts. One that stayed with me involved a pregnant woman beheaded in a freak accident who continued to breath until the birth of her child. I'll have to get that one out and give you the name.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Suffer the Children and Lair of the White Worm are heavy on my to-read list right now, along with the Night Vale novel. It's that time of year. I'm currently chewing through M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts, which is cute to me, but likely disturbing to gentler readers.

    Horror Shorts are blessings because the good ones are so efficient and memorable, while the bad can so easily be skipped over. It gives me a great fondness for Ellen Datlow's anthologies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! I didn't have to invest too much time into a short story if doesn't deliver. The same can't be said for a novel. I didn't know Lair of the White Worm was a book first (I know, I know, bad.)

      Delete