Friday Reads: Halloween Edition

This week for our #FridayReads Team Gollancz are going to share with you some of the books we’ll be reading this Halloween. All next week we’ll also be running a series of Halloween Reads. So, if you’re in the mood for some spooky and seasonal reading, this is the place to be. (We apologize for this themed post and firmly blame, Jen. She’s way too keen on Halloween, possibly because she’s American.)

Marcus: Rather than a book, I’m going to talk about a horror comic from one of Gollancz’s star authors, Joe Hill.

LOCKE & KEY is a series published by IDW, one of the smaller American comics companies, which is currently on its 30th or so issue (there are only going to be 37 in total, says Joe). The individual comics have, of course, all been collected (there are four volumes so far, I believe), and together they tell one of the most interesting, innovative and scary uses of the comics medium in recent years. Perhaps it shows, a little, at the beginning, that Hill hadn’t had much comics-writing experience before, but his central idea and mystery are so strong and unusual that any early stumbles are easily passed over. And within a couple of issues the characters, the setting and the house (oh, the house) have sucked you in and that’s it. You’re stuck in Lovecraft, and with the Locke family, and all of their demons, and all of their enemies, and you won’t be able to escape.

If I’m honest, at this point, I’d almost suggest that you wait for the final issues to be released before discovering Locke & Key for the first time – because then you’ll have the unparalleled joy of working through the entire series, from beginning to end, in one go. I envy you.

Jen: This Halloween I’m reading Carrie Ryan’s terrifying YA/Crossover novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Zombies have quickly replaced werewolves as the scariest monsters to me. Mostly because zombies have sheer numbers in their favour. *Shudder*. Carrie Ryan’s beautifully written coming-of-age novel looks at the world after the zombie apocalypse and how society has survived. From the sneak peek I’ve had at the chilling opening chapter I might also be working out my zombie survival plan, because you never know.

Gillian: This Halloween I’m going to be settling down with a collection of fairy tales – which are perhaps one of the scariest collection of stories I’ve ever read. Murderous wolves, wicked witches, evil stepsisters, magic, murder, petty emotions and a guarantee that being good doesn’t mean you won’t get tricked. Combine that with a bit of trick or treating and it’s a perfect spooky night in!

Paul H:  Out of all the horror novels I’ve read, the one that really still sticks in my mind is James Herbert’s The Rats. This is one of those nice, brief horror novels that is really a pure ‘B movie’ in print and is all the greater for it. It’s not as well written as Herbert’s later novels (this was his first book after all) and certainly not as well put together as the other two novels in the ‘Rats’ trilogy but this is still the one that sticks in my mind. It’s raw, exploitation creature feature style is just superb. Giant, dog sized killer rats are terrorising London. One bite will pass on a virus that kills, agonisingly and horribly, it’s the sort of thing Roger Corman dreams about. In Herbert’s hands this is a short and sweet tour de force with some genuinely unsettling and downright scary scenes. For most people rats are a pretty unsavoury creature, imagine being swamped by hundreds of them, covering you, eating you alive, that’s not only abhorrent, it’s enough to make a grown man shudder. That’s not even the best of the chills. There’s a scene where a school is overrun with the hungry vermin but best of all is a truly terrifying scene where the rats attack an underground train. The scene is so vivid that it still makes me slightly uncomfortable every time I go on the tube, because you know that in London you are never more than about 6 feet from a rat.

Darren: Controversy alert: I don’t really do Horror. At the risk of upsetting people, I find it – by-and-large – the least interesting of the fantastic genres. Perhaps I was irrevocably scarred by the vast amounts of garbage spewed out into the market in the 80’s where gratuitous gore and lurid sex took the place of atmosphere, tension and skilled writing. So: Horror – meh. Except . . . except . . . every so often I’d come across a proper writer. A Stephen King or, latterly, a Joe Hill. Writers who can really write – and who understand that horror is an emotional response rather than a set of tropes to be lazily ticked off between dismemberments. And if we’re talking about masters of the written word, and the ability to build tension and atmosphere, and if we’re talking about Hallowe’en and slow drawing in of the daylight hours, then we must be talking about the late, great Ray Bradbury.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is, for me, the quintessential Hallowe’en book – the passport to the October country. Without ever producing a shock or a jump, it nevertheless builds tension and atmosphere to the point where I have to remind myself to actually breathe. It’s a compelling book, which is genuinely scary in a way no teenage body count can come close to emulating. I can almost smell the carnival food and hear the crowd, I can almost feel the slight chill of autumn descending, and – and this is where Bradbury has no peer – I can feel myself becoming nostalgic for a small-town American childhood that I never had. Genius.

As I said, I don’t really get Horror. But luckily for all of us, Ray Bradbury does.

Paul S:  My favourite Halloween read is Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. An ageing metal star gets an email from ebay’s angrier, scarier brother offering to sell him a ghost, and he takes the chance to make an addition to a macabre collection. But when he the package arrives (an old suit in a battered, black, heart-shaped box), he finds that this particular ghost is very real, very angry and has a very personal vendetta against his new owner. This is a dark, under-the-skin horror book about what happens when the past you’ve taken for granted comes back at you… My ipod, though, will be loaded up with Joe’s first collaboration with Stephen King, In the Tall Grass, read by Stephen Lang from Avatar. Don’t listen to what they say, don’t get out of the car, and don’t lose sight of the road…

Graeme: My Halloween book definitely has to be The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper.

Professor David Ullman is among the world’s leading authorities on demonic literature. Not that he’s a believer. He sees what he teaches as a branch of the imagination and nothing more. So when offered a luxury trip to Venice to consult on a ‘phenomenon’, he accepts, taking his 11-year-old daughter Tess with him. But what he witnesses in the tiny attic room shakes him to the core: a man restrained in a chair, clearly insane. But what David hears the man say is worse. The voice of his father, dead for 30 years, repeating the last words he ever spoke to his son. Words that have left scars – and a mystery – behind.

Terrified, David is determined to leave with Tess as quickly as possible. But he can’t shake the feeling that something is following him. And then, before his eyes on the roof of their hotel, Tess disappears. But before she falls into the Grand Canal’s waters, speaking in that same dead tongue of his father, she manages to utter a final plea: Find me.

What follows is a gripping (and terrifying) pilgrimage across America as David is forced to act as witness to the worst things that humans are capable of doing to one another, fuelled by the promise that if he can determine the name of the demon holding his daughter hostage, he will win her back. It’s pacy, well-written and has a perfect balance between the supernatural and the everyday evil found in men’s hearts. There’s still a while to wait for this book (it comes out next April from our sister imprint Orion Fiction) but we’d hope to give away copies right here on the blog long before that!


So, what’s your favourite Halloween read?