Halloween is approaching, so I thought the timing might be right for a column on the best horror novels of the last decade. I could have timed this to appear the week of Halloween, but I thought this earlier publication date would work better. That way, you’ll be deep into your scary novel on Halloween!
One of the scariest books I have ever read was “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King. I have read many of his books, and all of his earlier ones. This one stands out to me as the creepiest, “The Shining” being a close second. However, I wanted to highlight other books that have come out since the year 2000 by other less-well-known authors.
I’m going to try to avoid books that focus on zombies or vampires because, well, zombies are everywhere! And vampires were everywhere before zombies took over.
I love a good zombie or vampire story (I am a huge fan of the TV series “The Walking Dead” and absolutely loved the Anne Rice vampire novels). However, I want to give horror fiction that departs from the current trends a chance here …
“Dark Harvest” by Norman Partridge came out in 2006, and reviews stated that bookstores should prominently display this book every Halloween, calling it one of the best novels centered around that day. It is THAT good, apparently! It won the Bram Stoker Award and was named one of the 100 Best Novels of 2006 by Publishers Weekly. The plot goes like this: Each Halloween, able-bodied teen boys are let loose into the night with crude weapons to chase down the October Boy. He’s a candy-stuffed scarecrow topped with a jack-o’-lantern head, and if he’s not killed before midnight, the town, in some indescribable way, will end. But this year the truth of the October Boy’s annual regenesis is uncovered by young Pete, whose blood-spattered night takes a turn different than any in the ritual’s storied history.
I didn’t know this until I was looking into horror books for this column, but Stephen King has a son who is also a successful writer! He publishes under the name Joe Hill. His 2010 novel, “Horns,” was named one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month when it came out. It is described as a dark, funny exploration of love, grief, and the nature of good and evil. Ignatius William Perrish wakes up bleary and confused after a night of drinking and “doing terrible things” to find he has grown horns. In addition to being horribly unsightly, these inflamed protuberances give Ig an equally ugly power — if he thinks hard enough, he can make people admit things (intimate, embarrassing, I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that details). One reviewer states that “Horns” is a wickedly fun read, and reveals Hill’s uncanny knack for creating alluring characters and a riveting plot.
The last book I’ll mention was picked by one reviewer as the best horror novel of the new millennium — “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski, who is described as an “eccentric and mad genius author.” He takes the age-old haunted house setup, rips it apart, and then pieces it back together as a kind of Frankenstein’s monster of a novel. And the final product is both invigorating and mind-blowing enough to make reading another novel the same way again impossible, once page 709 is done.
So ... if you are interested in reading any of these, now is the time! Immerse yourself in a good, creepy and engrossing tale for Halloween. And, as always, don’t forget the library! We are here to help you find these books or any others you may be interested in.
1. “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith
2. “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini
3. “Never Go Back” by Lee Child
4. “Mistress” by James Patterson
5. “W is for Wasted” by Sue Grafton
6. “Inferno” by Dan Brown
7. “The English Girl” by Daniel Silva
8. “Gone” by James Patterson
9. “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty
10. “Takedown Twenty” by Janet Evanovich
1. “The Great Gatsby”
2. “Now You See Me”
3. “Homeland, Season 2”
4. “Iron Man 3”
5. “Game of Thrones, Season 3”
6. “Star Trek. Into Darkness”
7. “42: the Jackie Robinson Story”
9. “The Company You Keep”
10. “Olympus Has Fallen”
MONDAY — 6:30 p.m., the Dante Society Cinema Italiana Festival begins! This week’s feature is “The Salt of Life” (2012, 90 minutes, Italian with English subtitles): Gianni plays a middle-aged retiree who has become invisible to all the women of Rome, regardless of age or relation. He contends with a demanding mother; a patronizing wife; a slacker daughter; and a wild party-girl neighbor who uses him ... as a dog walker. Watching his codger friends snare beautiful young girlfriends on the sun-kissed cobblestones of Trastevere, Gianni tries his polite, utterly gracious best to generate some kind of extracurricular love life, with both hilarious and poignant results.
TUESDAY — 1 p.m., the weekly Tuesday film will be shown in the auditorium. This week’s choice is “Identity” (rated R, 88 minutes, 2003): A whodunit revolving around a group of 10 strangers who find themselves running from a desert storm. They hole up in a roadside motel that proves as hospitable as the Bates Motel. The patrons are killed, one by one, and the survivors must try to figure out who the killer is before they, too, check out ... permanently!
1 p.m., the adult book group meets! New members are always welcome, so please come on down to the library if you’re interested. This month’s selection is “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson.
TUESDAY EVENING — 6 p.m., the weekly Chess Club meets! All ages and experience levels are welcome.
WEDNESDAY — 6:30 p.m., the Pawcatuck Valley Coin Club is holding an introductory seminar. Have you been interested in buying gold and silver but don’t know how? Now is your chance to learn. This seminar will help educate people about how to buy precious metal. All are welcome.
THURSDAY — 5-9 p.m., dine at the 99 Restaurant (7 Airport Road, Westerly), use the flyer (located on the library’s website) and 15 percent of your bill will go to support the library!
Nina Wright is the reference librarian at the Westerly Public Library.