Monday, March 30, 2009

My Top 10 Horror and/or Macabre and/or Odd/ Weird Books of All Time

There are certainly no shortage of Top Ten Lists covering people's Top Ten Horror Movies on the Intergoogle. In fact, it seems to be the genre that is ranked more than any other film genre. Or perhaps it is the only one I care about so I haven't even noticed. You can correct me on this. And then you can go to Hell. So in my pathetic attempt to prove falsely that I am literate I am presenting my top ten books. I don't want to just call it a "Horror" list because some of these aren't necessarily scary but are either creepy, macabre, odd or fit the genre in some roundabout way. And I have also included some things that you may or may not have heard of, so you might give a few of these a chance.

Finally, I tried my best not to include pretentious choices like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (which I read in High School and loved) or Bram Stoker's Dracula (which I read in college and liked) because these are literary classic and I always hate those a-holes who are like, "my favorite comedians are Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and my favorite plays are anything by Shakespeare". No they're not, okay? They are not. I betcha if in Virgin Megastore's "Going Out of Business Sale!" they were selling "The Best of Buster Keaton" for $5 you wouldn't buy it. So I tried to make selections that are what I truly like as opposed to what makes me sound smart.

I have also included Amazon links so that if you click on them you can get more product details as well as buy them and help me out with a little some some.

10. Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die - This is one of those oddities selections. This book is an "encyclopedia" of some the really bizarre ways people have died. From cell phones to washing machines, from ants to hand creams they cover a lot of stupid shit, and it is pretty funny, but it is not the kind of book you sit down and read. It truly is a reference book because although you will initially sit down and try and read it, it is much more like a Bartlett's Quotations book where you think to yourself, "I wonder if anyone has said anything famous about rats", except in this one you go, "I wonder if anyone has ever died from sticking a rat up his ass." And then you look it up. It ain't in there incidentally. Drats.

9. Twilight Zone - You know the series, you loved the series, but how familiar are you with the stories today? Rod Serling, who wrote most of the episodes himself also turned 19 of the teleplays into short stories and they are some of the best ones. My costume designer for the haunted house actually gave the book to me two years ago as an opening night present. It was incredibly captivating and easy to read (a theme for me. I like easy. I have been reading Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene" for about 10 years now. Not an easy read).

8. Stanley Kubrick (Midsize) - Stanley Kubrick is my favorite film director, hands down, who directed my number two favorite horror film of all time - The Shining (and i will indeed join the ranks and create a top ten film list soon) - and countless creepy, unnerving psychological mind sexes. This book - a life in pictures as well as words - captures exactly what makes this director a genius: His Eye. Any film lover and horror buff should have this in their collection. You want to know how to create the most unsettling mise-en-scene? Watch his films, read this book.

7. Tales of Terror: 58 Short Stories Chosen by the Master of Suspense - The same costume designer also gave me this collection of short stories selected by Alfred Hitchcock himself. he didn't write them, but he chose them and some of them are pretty dark. Twilight Zone is weird and eerie and all, but Hitchcock had issues. Two of my favorite horror stories of all time come from Hitchcock presents the show - the one about the woman who was raped in her house and never wanted to leave her house again, and when she finally goes outside with her husband she sees the person who raped her, and then her husband chases the man down, catches him, murders him, runs back to the car and they drive away, and not one minute later she points to another man, and then another, and another telling her husband it was those people as well. Creepy. I would tell you the other one, but I don't feel like it.

6. 20th Century Ghosts - This one is by Joe Hill who also wrote Heart-Shaped Box which i have not read, but hear is very good (and pretty scary). Joe, for those who don't know, is Stephen King's devil seed. Heard of him? He's this other guy that's on this list a couple of time. This collection of short stories is not particularly scary, but that isn't it's M.O. entirely. Some are romantic, eerie, poetic, and... pick your genre tone. And he is good at most of them. My only criticism is that while some of the stories feel fully fleshed out and realized, others seem like the first chapter in a book that Joe Hill decided not to write. Otherwise, it is super easy to read as it mixes so dramatically in style that you never lose enthusiasm to keep reading. I finished this book in like 3 days.

5. Let the Right One In: A Novel - More on my obsession with vampires later. I just read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist that the movie is based on after I saw and absolutely adored it (and i think it is now on DVD. Hmm, I gotta get that). The book is actually more graphic, more in depth (as books tend to be) and make the vampire a little boy instead of a little girl. I kind of liked it being a girl, and the film sets up an effective premise for its conclusion because of that, but the book is dark and beautiful and utterly captivating.

4. Darkly Dreaming Dexter - I know this is a pretty commercial choice, but perhaps fans of the Showtime show don't realize that the series is actually based on another series of Books. I am only listing the first of Jeff Lindsey's brilliant novels here 9there are 4), but I encourage you to read them all. I have, and none of them get tired, in fact I feel like they only get better. if you have seen the show you might want to go right to the second one because this one is about the Ice Truck Killer, and the TV show stick closely to the plot of the book, where the others aren't necessarily what happens on the television box (well, at least not entirely). I am absolutely in love with this character, the dialogue is snappy, its insights are original, and it's effectively eerie, scary and suspenseful. And I am addicted to the show as well.

3. It - Perhaps an obvious book that no one needs to be introduced to, so I won't say much about it, but in my youth I read tons of Stephen King and liked most of them, hated a few (never, ever read Tommyknockers), but feel like he should be on my list twice at least. This is King's best book (the stupid battle with a giant crab-like creature at the end aside), and although I rank Salem's Lot higher (it scared me more and has had a greater influence), "It" is horror writing at its best. It's also the quintessential fear of clowns book (or coulrophobia). They should probably make this into a real movie and not a made-for-TV cheese festival.

2. 'Salem's Lot - This book terrified me as a kid, and is one of the reasons I chose to do 'Vampires' as the theme for this year's haunted house. Salem's Lot in many ways made me a horror aficionado. I faced my fear and became consumed. It really, truly did scare the shit out of me, i could not sleep thinking that some dead boy was going to tap at my bedroom window and ask to be let inside. It never happened. while i was awake.

1. Blindness - This is not only my number one horror book, but is also one of my favorite books of all time. I am more of a non-fiction guy since I am constantly trying to make up for the fact that all I did in college was figure out ways to fool teachers into thinking I was doing the work instead of actually learning shit. But this is one of those non-fiction books that is so prescient and intuitive that you feel like you learned something about the world. And then I guess there is the question of whether this book should even qualify because it is a Nobel Prize winning masterpiece about how untenable the binds that attach us are, and how our understanding of the world and people is only superficial, and in the end life is about survival, or more over survival of the fittest, and when push comes to shove our basic animal instincts come out, and about a million other things that others can (and have) articulate much better than myself. But it is absolutely terrifying in its dystopian view of a world without sight tearing itself apart both figuratively and literally. It is grotesque, violent, suspenseful, action-packed, thrilling and horrific. All things you would want out of anything in the horror genre. So it qualifies. I beg you to read it if you haven't.

Talk to me. I want to hear what your favorite horror books are. I am always looking for a good book in the genre, so help me out! I would especially like to know about more esoteric things that I may not have heard about (i.e. don't tell me I need to read Silence of the Lambs. I have yet to read it, but I also don't need to be turned on to it. It's kind of well-known). Look forward to hearing from you!

1 comment:

WriterME said...

Thanks for the list! I hadn't heard about 'Blindness' myself, and it looks like something I definitely want to read.

As for title suggestions, are you familiar with any of the major names in the UK? There's James Herbert (supernatural horror), Shaun Hutson (about as gory as it gets) and my favourite of the three, Ramsey Campbell. His 'The Face That Must Die' is the best serial killer novel I've ever read.

Perhaps a more obscure title is 'Meat' by Joseph D'Lacey. A more or less dystopian, apocalyptic novel with a cruel and interesting topic.

Then there's the Japanese horror: 'The Crimson Labyrinth' from Yusuke Kishi, 'Now You're One of Us' by Asa Nonami and of course the Ring cycle by Koji Suzuki.

You're most likely familiar with the work of Jack Ketchum and Poppy Z. Brite, but I would still like to recommend them.