Monday, 24 October 2011
Do you like a good horror story? I do – I am weird that way.
Strangely, I’m not a huge fan of horror films, particularly disturbing films like the Saw series. For me, I prefer to let my imagination do the work and, together with the fine words of an author, I can allow myself to be scared shitless in the comfort of my own bed, on a train etc.
Over the years I have read some fabulously scary books; books that have enthralled me and terrified me; books that prove there are people out there with wonderful imaginations.
With Hallowe’en just around the corner I thought I would let you know about some of the best horror books I have read over the years:
Watchers – Dean Koontz
Watchers was the first book I read by the prolific author Dean Koontz. The idea for the story is amazing. Genetic engineers have created two creatures, one dog whose intelligence has been enhanced, the other a hideous monster whose purpose is to kill the dog. Throw in a ruthless assassin and you have a fabulous tale that is gripping and scary. Watchers is a wonderful yarn.
Necroscope – Brian Lumley
Forget Twilight and other safe vampire tales. Vampires have become cool and trendy these days none more so than those in the Twilight saga. If you want a really scary vampires then look no further than the Necroscope series of books by Brian Lumley. In his books, vampires (or Wamphyri) are terrifying alien creatures that invade their human hosts and mutate them into creatures from Hell itself. They are genuine monsters. Only one man can combat them; the Necroscope, a man who can talk to the dead. Necroscope is the first of a whole series of books, some of which are truly terrifying. I think my favourite is Necroscope III: The Source but they are all worth a read – all thirteen novels (plus some short stories).
The Wyrm – Stephen Laws
Stephen Laws is another excellent British horror writer. The Wyrm tells the story of a sleepy little town beneath which lives a monstrous, ancient and truly evil force that is released inadvertently by the townsfolk and then proceeds to wreak bloody havoc. It is definitely my kind of book.
Imajica – Clive Barker
Clive Barker’s books are quite disturbing and if you have seen the film Hellraiser you will have some idea what I am talking about. Imajica is really a massive fantasy novel. Our own Earth is just one of five dominions yet has been cut off from the remaining four. The heroes of the tale traverse each dominion in a bid to reunite them with Earth, encountering all manner of wonder on their journey, some good and some evil. If you like fantasy horror on a large scale this is the book for you.
Domain – James Herbert
The first horror book I read was James Herbert’s The Rats and I have that book to thank for my love of horror fiction. The Rats was in fact the first of a trilogy, the final book being Domain. London is devastated by a nuclear blast and the survivors have to cope with every horror you can imagine in order to survive. Sadly for them these things are the least of their worries because waiting for them are irradiated and demonic super rats. If you fear rats in any way this book will absolutely terrify you.
Swan Song – Robert R. McCammon
I love books set in post-apocalyptic nightmare. In Swan Song, again the theme is nuclear attack, except this time America itself is devastated. Again the survivors have to cope with all the horrors that you would imagine plus armies of evil with their own agenda that eventually culminates in the age old battle between good and evil. It is another massive novel and a mesmerising read.
The Stand – Stephen King
The Stand is, in my opinion, Stephen King’s best novel. Like Swan Song it is a huge novel set in a post-apocalyptic America, this time the devastation being caused by a mutated flu virus that wipes out most of the population. Again the survivors are drawn towards the forces of good or evil, the result being another immense confrontation between the two. Since I read the novel many years ago, a new uncut version has been released and I have been tempted to reread it. Part of me wants to remember the story as it was, which I why I have resisted so far.
Phantoms – Dean Koontz
Phantoms is a fabulous story. A small town is suddenly hit by a terrible unexplained force. A few strangers chance upon the town and see remnants of the disaster (population missing, scattered severed limbs, mysterious noises, etc. ) and then they gradually begin to succumb to the same horror. This is a scary and very intriguing book and I would recommend reading it alone, in a dark house with just the bedside lamp for company.
Daemonic – Stephen Laws
A reclusive billionaire who lives in a monstrous skyscraper called “The Rock” offers a number of seemingly unconnected people to his home, kidnapping those who refuse to come. There they are confronted by something that he has made a pact with – something daemonic. I loved this book; characters lost in a changing labyrinth and being stalked by all manner of beast. It would make a terrific movie.
Cain – James Byron Huggins
Take an ex-CIA assassin, genetically enhanced to become the ultimate killing machine and possessed by an ancient evil and you have one hell of a great idea for a novel. I picked this up in Hong Kong airport ready for the flight home and I read it in two or three days. I have tried to find other books by the author but sadly they seem to be available only in the States for inflated prices. It’s a shame really because this is genuinely a great story and I would love to read more of his offerings.
Black Angel – Graham Masterton
Black Angel is a very disturbing and alarming novel, with extremely graphic descriptions. It tells the story or a serial killer who is so utterly horrific that he is called “Satan” by the police and you can imagine how horrible it becomes particularly the dark supernatural cloud that hovers over the entire experience. I found it very awkward to read not only because of the shocking imagery but also because it is a genuinely frightening novel. I would think twice about seeing any movie adaptation.
Shrine – James Herbert
Some of James Herbert’s books open up a door within my imagination; the door labelled “Do Not Open”. I can’t quite put my finger on why this book scared me so much; possibly because it involves religion and possession, two things that push the wrong buttons. Like all novels by James Herbert, Shrine is a cracking read but has the added bonus of giving you a sleepless night – if you like that sort of thing.
Christine – Stephen King
You may laugh at the idea of a car that is possessed and in turn possesses the young man who buys her. It is a bit slow to begin with but when it gets going Christine is difficult to put down. Like most Stephen King books, it has been turned into a film but that particular film doesn’t do it justice. The book is much better – and much creepier.
The Dark – James Herbert
The final two books I am going to mention are the ones that scared me the most. I wrote about The Dark in a post last year. Here’s an excerpt that says everything I need to say about the book:
I have been known to read horror stories late at night and struggle to sleep as a result – even now. Take The Dark by James Herbert. The synopsis on the back cover of the book describes “a malignant power”, “physical blackness” and “unstoppable evil”.
I read this book before I was married. I was twenty two years old, living alone in a small flat in Manchester and I recall lying in bed at around midnight, totally engrossed in a particularly tense scene. I switched the light off and tried to sleep. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim room, I looked across at the wardrobe and noticed something odd. The wardrobe was white and clearly visible – except it wasn’t white at all – a black shadow was cast over it.
My imagination screamed at me.
“Come on Dave,” I thought. “You are an adult. You’re eyes are deceiving you.”
I studied the wardrobe and, sure enough, it was obscured by an amorphous black shadow. My mind drifted into the past, remembering the time when I thought I saw the ghost of my father.
Even further back, I started to recall the fear of vampires and the time that I convinced myself Count Dracula was in my room, his red eyes boring into mine as he prepared to feast on my blood.
Even further back, I remembered the Bogeyman and the recurring nightmare that I was being chased by a horrifying monster down an endless tunnel. Images of Jack Frost appeared and I pulled my toes under the duvet, for fear that the shadow was going to lunge forward and attack my extremities. I kind of hoped it was the Sandman – at least if he were to throw sand in my eyes, I might actually get some sleep.
The shadow didn’t move at all. It waited there, teasing me, taunting me, terrifying me.
I had no choice but to reach out and switch on the light. My heart was pounding more than Neil Peart’s drum kit during a Rush drum solo.
I reached for the bedside lamp and promptly knocked it on the floor.
What should I do?
Should I hide under the duvet and hope that it scared the shadow?
Should I be brave and get out of bed and face the beast?
To be honest, the idea that a duvet will act as protection against a hellish fiend is as preposterous as the concept of supernatural monsters actually existing. What use would a duvet be if Count Dracula decided to break down my door and use my neck as chewing gum? How would a duvet protect me against a Bogeyman with ten inch teeth, claws that can rip skin from bone and who delights in dismembering young children?
I went for the light.
I leapt out of bed and fumbled around in the dark, almost crippling myself as I fell over the bedside table. It seemed like an eternity until I got the light on – enough time even for a crippled old vampire to hobble over to my bed and gum suck my jugular.
The room was bathed in glorious bright light.
I stared at the wardrobe.
What do you think I saw?
The bloody door was open. I almost kicked myself in frustration. Why? Because I remember opening the bloody thing. I just forgot to close it.
What an utter arse I was.
Says it all, doesn't it?
‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King
The image of a little boy turned into a vampire and scratching at the first floor window of his friend to be let in is a disturbing one for a fifteen year old boy. The screen adaptation of ‘Salem’s Lot scared the hell out of me because all of a sudden kids were prey to these monsters. Add to that the fact that the lead vampire was immune to religious symbols and you have a genuinely scary film. I read the book some years later and again I let my imagination get the better of me. The book was better, of course, and opened up that door in my imagination, leading to sleepless nights and fear of everything vampiric.
Yet I am still fascinated by them.
Thanks for reading – I hope you made it to the end without being freaked out.
I am always on the lookout for new authors particularly of horror novels, so if you have any recommendations I will be glad to check them out.
Now, I’ll say good night – I hope the vampires don’t bite.