Happy October – Here’s a Pile of Horror

Yep, I’m just throwing these all in a pile. It’s Halloween, and I have completed (nearly) the time honored tradition of reading horror novels only for the Season of Spookiness.

Since every book is good at something, I’m awarding all the books I read this month with a “Best” something. Everyone gets a participation trophy!

Best “The Adults are NOT Alright”

The Academy by Bentley Little

A major theme in Little’s work is that everyone, and especially the people that are supposed to be in authority, goes absolutely nuts. Whatever malevolent force is at play, the responsible adults for the most part, lose their marbles and turn into demented, sadistic perverts.

Not to disappoint, The Academy show us the evil of…charter schools? Ah, who cares about the message. Ponder the mysteries of the principal’s messy office while a new batch of Hitler youth roam the schoolgrounds and a strangely prescient “wall” is built around what used to be just a normal public high school.


Best Anti-Aphrodisiac 

The Vanishing by Bentley Little

I don’t read Bentley Little for anything but the bananarama looniness that pours forth from his prolific, deranged pen. This gross, horrific, pervert novel is no exception. Prepare for lots of demons, demon sex, llama boys, milk maids (you are NOT going to like that joke) and whatever other kitchen sinks Little throws in his novels. Fortunately for readers, “making sense” is never a higher priority on Little’s list than “destroying your innocence.” This book will NOT put you in the mood. And if it does, I worry for you.


Best Kissing Noises

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

I’m lying. Kissing noises are gross. Who even makes those? Does the sound effect engineer literally have to do kissing into a microphone? What do they kiss? I feel like it’s not another person.


Best Cross-Cultural Offensiveness

Baal by Robert R. McCammon

Even though I love my 70’s/80’s horror novels, I don’t have to like how incredibly tone-deaf the cultural sensitivity is in many of them. Every other horror novel from that era seems to involve the vengeance of one Native American spirit or another, presented with all the nuance of a Veggie Tales episode. This is NOT how we fix things!

Baal relies on a biblical demon for its antagonist, but still manages to offend cultures from the Middle East to the Inuit in the North. I love McCammon, but damn, that’s embarrassing!


Best Chapter Titles

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

This may be the least gimmicky Grady Hendrix novel yet! Besides my copy looking like a Rolling Stones cover and every chapter title named after a music album (Toxicity finally tipped me,) We Sold Our Souls is almost like a normal novel. I was waiting for it to tip over into sheer metal insanity, but it never quite got there. After Shaun of the Dead, a crowd tearing a person apart with their bare hands is just funny anymore, not scary.


Best Unsolved Mystery that Remains Unsolved no Matter what the Author Thinks

Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar

Next to Lizzie Borden, this may be one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of our time (take that, Black Dahlia!) It has all the elements of a story forever doomed to massive internet conspiracies; nine experienced hikers die in the wilderness, and the condition of their bodies and the camp site present a puzzle that still has no answer.

Unless of course, you believe the author, who makes such a to-do about going to Russia to walk in the footsteps of the hikers, and comes away with a theory even Mulder would find a bit loony. Or boring. I vote for boring. I’m going to spoil it now for you, fair warning.


The end.


Best Underwater House

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

I managed to hit the trifecta of modern mainstream horror novelists between Grady Hendrix, Josh Malerman, and Paul Tremblay. That’s a bingo.

House is actually a sweet love story, and a little depressing. I didn’t mind that it was low on horror, unless we are talking about the horror of the expectations that society sets up for us versus the reality of actual relationships in an adult world. Man, life sucks. Thanks, Mr. Malerman!


Best Cronenberg Vampires

The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman

Picture it: David Cronenberg’s Crash meets True Blood. With a nun.



Best Old Haunted Churches

Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James

Write what you know, they say, and boy did M.R. James know from churches. As any self-respecting ghost story writer knows, old churches are some of the best places to find ghosts and creepy shenanigans. M.R. James basically got to invent all the tropes about haunted cathedrals and manors and old beaches.

I tell you what though, I learned a thing or two about holy architecture.


Best imitation of Peter Jackson turning one short book into three movies

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

This would have been a great novella. Tremblay tries to subvert the old “cabin in the woods” trope, the “home invasion” trope, and the “impending apocalypse” trope via juxtaposition, and a lot of exposition about a hinky screen door. Atmospheric to the point of boredom. Cue the movie rights.


Best True Crime “How To”

Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen

True crime has blown the fuck up. Maybe I’m just biased because I listen to “My Favorite Murder” on the way home every day, and I consider Karen and Georgia close, personal friends. A strange confluence of sudden obsession with this podcast, Michelle McNamara’s sudden death and subsequent true crime book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, and then the Golden State Killer’s apprehension led me to Billy Jensen and his crowdsourcing, social media savvy crime solving approach. It’s a little terrifying, a little 1984-esque, but hey, maybe don’t commit any crimes. Or make your Facebook profile private.

Best “Judge a Book by Its Cover”


Who cares what this book is about? LOOK at that cover!

*A Canine Addendum:

  • Baal – RIP dog sled team
  • Suicide Motor Club – throws in a dog death for no reason
  • Aggie and Charlotte officially protest horror novels.









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