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Good Reads: Oh, the Horror of It



We all have our favorite genres of books and mine are British detective novels. I’ve not been a big fan of horror books, but I wanted to find out a bit more about this genre, since it’s so popular and has many devoted fans. One of the most interesting things I discovered is that there are many sub-genres – horror/comedy, thrillers, cosmic horror, sci-fi horror and Gothic. I realized I had read and enjoyed some of these, specifically Gothic novels and thrillers. So, I went about researching the broader genre of “horror fiction” and what makes it popular.

For one thing, fiction can help us escape from the often-dark realities of our world today. I’ve often thought the best way to escape is to bury myself in the pages of
one of my murder mysteries. Also, reading about fictional characters and feeling what they are going through gives us strength to cope with what we are going through in real life. One of the most important lessons reading horror stories is that everything is surmountable and survivable. Yes, sometimes the protagonists die – in which case I’m mad at the author – but in more cases than not, they make it through.

These stories can help you understand why something is scary when you see the monster for what it truly is. Scary books can expose the threats and show us what we are really afraid of, whether it is external forces, or our own potential for evil, or something else. And in some cases, the story seems too much like real life! But doesn’t that, in fact, help us face real life with perspective?

Even if your favorite books are more along the lines of light reading or romance novels, try a little horror fiction, because you will never know until you step over to the dark side! You might find you like it, or at least you might find yourself a little braver or a bit less spooked. Go ahead, take a chance!

“The Living Dead” by George A. Romero and Daniel Kraus
George A. Romero invented the modern zombie movies with “Night of the Living Dead.” Because his movies were limited by the constraints of film-making, Romero began writing stories. Unfortunately, he died before he could finish his first book. His wife asked writer Daniel Kraus to complete “The Living Dead.” The story begins with one body and spreads quickly. When a pair of medical examiners find themselves confronted with a dead man who won’t stay dead, we are well into the story. People everywhere are targeted by the living and the dead. For followers of zombie stories, you think you know how this ends, right? Well, you could be wrong!

“The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel” by Grady Hendrix
Described as “Steel Magnolias meets Dracula” this story has all the elements I love: women in a book club, a handsome stranger coming to town, people going missing and an amateur sleuth stepping up to solve the mystery and save the day. Anyone who loves Stephen King will enjoy this, and it’s a great way to ease into the horror genre!

“Then She Was Gone: A Novel” by Lisa Jewell
If you think you can guess the ending of this book, you are one smart reader! Ten years after her daughter Ellie went missing, Laurel is still struggling. Her marriage has ended, her other children hardly speak to her, and she imagines she sees her missing daughter in the faces of every young woman she encounters.
Enter a mysterious stranger in town with a daughter who seems to have a connection to Ellie. What’s going on?

“The Deep” by Alma Katsu
As if the tales of the sinkings of RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic were not bad enough, here is a historical reimagining laced with magic and mystery. Titanic survivors recall sensing an eerie, haunted atmosphere while mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths occurred even before the sinking. When they find themselves aboard the ill-fated HMHD Britannic, they are again sensing impending disaster. Alma Katsu adds a sweeping love story and a ghostly tale of revenge to these maritime tragedies to tell a story that is haunting, thrilling and utterly original.

“John Dies at the End” by David Wong
This is the first of a three-book series about John, who dies in the first book, but doesn’t stay dead. Does he die at the end? John and his friend David are two slackers who try to thwart some alien invaders. Lowbrow comedy/horror that works for those who love horror combined with the absurd.

“The Snow: A Supernatural Apocalypse Novel” by Flint Maxwell
“This is how the world ends: with a single snowf lake.” When three guys go on a holiday in the mountains, they are unprepared for the blizzard that covers the area with several feet of snow, knocking out communications and making the roads impassable. Now they are faced with just surviving – and something is out there besides the cold…something sinister! A fun and thrilling read! Besides, as we end an unusually hot summer, I say give me a few snowflakes!

“The Familiars: A Novel” by Stacey Halls

Set against the backdrop of the Pendle witch trials of 1612 in England, a young girl named Fleetwood Shuttleworth is in her fourth pregnancy. Her first three ended in miscarriages, and she is desperate to provide her husband with an heir. When she discovers a letter from her physician to her husband that she wasn’t supposed to read, she learns that the doctor believes she will not survive another pregnancy. Desperate to prove him wrong, she elicits the help of a local midwife, Alice Gray, who also is thought to be involved in witchcraft. Will she be able to help Fleetwood before the witch trials destroy her and the other accused?

“Clown in a Cornfield” by Adam Cesare
Teens in the tiny, boring town of Kettle Springs find themselves caught in a battle between old and new, tradition and progress, and it just may cost them their lives. The adults want to make Kettle Springs great again (have we heard that before?), but the kids just want to have fun and leave Kettle Springs behind as soon as they can. Enter a creepy clown mascot who goes homicidal and decides the only way to bring back the old Kettle Springs is to cull the town of the youth who want to change it.

Scared yet? Intrigued enough to explore some of these horror/comedy, thrillers, cosmic horror, sci-fi horror or Gothic novels? I hope so. What a great way to expand your reading horizons and divert your attention for awhile from all that is going on around us.

Diane and Hank Parfitt own City Center Gallery & Books in Downtown Fayetteville. They can be reached at citycentergallerybooks@ gmail.com or 910-678-8899.